For the past decade, John Rutherford and Felicia Smith wake at 3:15 a.m. and systematically follow the same routine.
They get themselves ready, pack a cooler for the day and swipe their time cards promptly at 4:30 a.m., hitting the road around 5:30 steering thousands of pounds down narrow streets.
No, they don't live together and they barely know each other, although their lives mirror one another.
Felicia Smith, a 44-year-old mother of two, is a driver for Rumpke Recycling, stationed in St. Bernard. John Rutherford, a 30-year-old father of five, is a driver for Rumpke Garbage stationed at the landfill in Colerain Township. They never cross paths, although they have so much in common.
Smith is one of 13 females working in a male-dominated industry. She makes roughly 600 stops per day for Rumpke, while Rutherford makes anywhere between 400 and 600 stops per day.
They brave the conditions to clean up after all of us in the Tri-State. They are garbage collectors.
"In the nine years I've been here, I've seen just about everything in people's trash," Rutherford said.
Baby diapers, decomposing animal carcasses, rotten food and drug stained syringes are part of Rutherford's life. Not because this was his "dream job" but because this job is necessary for all of us.
Become a WCPO Insider to get a first-hand look at how your trash gets from bin to the bottom of the landfill, and who is responsible for taking care of our dirty leftovers.
This is part of an on-going series that aims to showcase remarkable professions across Greater Cincinnati. These unsung workers make a living in some peculiar ways. We’ll give you an inside, eye-opening look to the often grimy and under-appreciated, but necessary, professions in the Tri-State.