Welcome to our Heroes on the Frontline page! No matter what happens in this world, our men and women in the waste and recycling industry are essential workers to keep things going.
This section recognizes some of our waste and recycling frontline heroes from across the U.S. who risk their lives every day in this great industry to provide these important services.
Kurtis Jones-Tolliver is Leadpoint’s Shift Lead/Associate Trainer at a MRF in Spokane, Washington. His manager Jeff Bailey singled out Kurtis for his hard work, dedication, and compassion. “Kurtis is always the first to arrive on site, gets his team ready, and supports them throughout the day,” Jeff said. “He strives to enhance the experience of our staff and his efforts are continuously brought to my attention by the team and the plant manager.”
For Kurtis, his job with Leadpoint has given him a personal and professional sense of accomplishment. “I spent many years bouncing from job to job, never finding satisfaction or stability until coming to Leadpoint,” he said. “I genuinely enjoy working with the sorters, leads, and management, solving problems, boosting production, and operating a complex system. “Working here has also restored my belief in myself,” Kurtis continued. “I know that with hard work and a positive attitude I can accomplish any goals set before me.”
With more than five years on the job, Sorter Sonia Cornejo is the kind of employee any MRF would value. Over the years, she has worked as a sorter at two Leadpoint sites in Washington state, and has been a top performer at both. Her manager Matt Short says, “We can put Sonia anywhere, in any position, and she’ll do an outstanding job.”
Sonia, a single mother, is driven by a desire to create a better life for her daughter. She likes the opportunities to improve herself that working for Leadpoint provides. “My greatest satisfaction is being responsible by respecting the work schedule and respecting the supervisors, secretaries and bosses,” Sonia said. “And the best thing is that we have work 365 days a year. Thank God. I love my work.”
Brad Diesing’s solid work ethic, zeal for development, timeliness, attendance, and overall positive attitude got the attention of Leadpoint’s Onsite Manager Nicky Henry and our customer, Pellitteri Waste Systems (PWS) of Madison, Wisconsin. “From his first day, Brad has wanted to learn new things. When we started a new project to raise cardboard numbers on our long-mixed paper line, we turned to Brad to help us hit our goal. And we made it!”
Recently, PWS hired Brad as a member of their staff. They plan to train him for further advancement in his career. A representative from PWS said, “Brad is one of those employees you wonder if he’s a robot. Just keeps picking and picking. An employer’s dream.”
Brad had this to say about his success and new opportunity. “What motivates me is striving to do better for myself and for my family and my future. Me getting hired on with Pellitteri in such a short time in my new career gives me a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride.”
While we hate to lose such a great employee, it is rare for PWS to hire one of Leadpoint’s people. We congratulate Brad and look forward to working with him in his new role.
When he needed a second chance, Kenneth Foy found one in the recycling industry. Leadpoint Business Services hired him as a sorter in a Seattle MRF and in a short time, became a back-up Line Lead. According to his manager, Kenneth always excelled, never complained, just put his head down and went to work. “He has always shown great leadership skills,” his manager says.
What drives Kenneth to work so hard in this difficult job? “I’ve always been a hard worker since I started my first job when I was 16,” Kenneth said. “The thing that drives me the most is that I don’t like to fail! I believe that every man and woman should work hard and do the best they can.
“Working hard allows me to achieve all my goals. It doesn’t matter what your job is or how much you get paid. If you work hard and do your best, you can do anything and overcome any challenges life has to offer.”
Clarence Hampton got a second chance when he joined Leadpoint as a sorter in 2014. Since then, he’s worked in nearly every role, moving his way up to supervisor at a MRF in upstate New York. “He understands what needs to be done and what can happen if you don’t do what’s needed,” Ricky Brewster, Leadpoint onsite manager said.
As a leader, Clarence focuses on setting clear expectations and finding ways to make the work safer for everyone. “The dedication and knowledge from this individual will astonish many,” Ricky said. “He thinks outside the box. He never guesses; he verifies. He exercises good judgment.”
“The drive to be a better leader comes from growth. I have had the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally throughout my years with Leadpoint,” Clarence said. “What makes me different than any employee is that I have had the opportunity to build a skill set through daily functions, present self-awareness, self-accountability and narrow down what works for not only myself but for others, always as a team player.”
When businesses started to close, it was quick. The island of Manhattan was empty, the volume of trash disappeared, and it was eerie at night. It was like a light switch went off. In New York City, we only service commercial customers, while in New Jersey we collect 1/3 industrial, 1/3 residential and 1/3 commercial. We service more than 70 hospitals and many supermarkets and bodegas. At the peak of the virus, hospitals required more frequent service (several times per day). In the five boroughs of New York, we estimate a 60% of commercial volume disappear. We quickly moved to consolidate routes and take trucks off the road. In New Jersey, we saw a spike in residential volume because everyone started working from home, so we re-allocated some of our New York workers to our New Jersey hauling company.
We tried to keep as many of our people on the payroll for as long as possible by eliminating overtime. We focused on isolating our employees from each other to reduce the likelihood of illness. I think our guys out there did a great job, including supervisors, managers, district managers, operations managers, site guys, etc. in managing what was happening on a day to day basis as things were changing daily. We also had to make sure that our people working in the transfer station and the MRF were protected and socially distant as they were sorting through material. This was particularly challenging early on. One of our MRF managers in Airmont, NY got the virus and he was out for 15 days causing us to process far less material than usual.
We had a handful of employees that tested positive for the virus and we had a lot who were quarantined. Throughout the last several weeks we have probably had close to 100 people out to quarantine because they had it, were being tested for it, waiting to be cleared, or a family member had it. We worry about our guys and want to make sure they are protected. If anyone of them don’t feel safe and want some extra protection, we have gotten it for them. I worry that when the restrictions are lifted and things open up, the numbers will go up, so we need to be diligent in protecting our frontliners. The things we are doing now, we will continue to do well into the future, like the hand sanitizing, sanitizing the trucks and social distancing.
In some of the municipalities we pick up in, kids will come out and clap for our guys, they will cheer them as they come to pick up the garbage. I hear stories about some of the residential workers getting some recognition from the families that are home when they come by to pick the garbage up with notes and signs. We have had local church members make us cloth masks, and some of our employees’ families make cloth masks. My sister in law’s mother’s church group made 150 cloth masks for us. We have done packaged lunches for our guys to say thank you. It is a small gesture, but it goes a long way. These guys have embraced what is going on and coming in to do their job. I am proud to say that I work with these guys. They are determined to be part of the solution.
Executive VP of Operations, Action Carting
Maintenance and Transfer Operations
40 years industry experience
Every day, I’m inspired by the work and the strength of the team. I see a bunch of professionals who step up to serve others. Our people put their own concerns and fears aside and get the job done. They rise to the occasion, because that’s what we do.
16 years experience
We have to think of new ways of doing things. Fortunately, working together we can figure it out. We bounce ideas off each other to make sure we can get the job done safely.
32 years of driving experience
People are counting on us. Our families, our customers, and our communities … they are all counting on us. Sure, this is an unprecedented challenge. However, here on Long Island, we get up every morning to meet the challenge. You want to see tough, take a look at the guys I work with. A challenge like this just means we have to be smarter, safer and tougher. I got no problems with that.
30 years of experience as a professional driver
My advice to fellow drivers is to remain professional and be careful. While there may be less traffic on the road, non-commercial drivers may be anxious and reckless Take your time, stay alert and stay safe. Your defensive driving skills are important these days.
32 years of industry experience
In times like these, I am inspired by my fellow mechanics to get the job done and keep the wheels turning safely. I am very thankful for the people I work with. We are all in this together.
Manager – Container Shop
35 years of industry experience
Unlike the enemies that our parents fought, this enemy is invisible. But it is just as deadly. New York has been the epicenter of this pandemic, but we are tough people and we’ll adapt. No doubt this has been a challenge, but our parents taught us to be smart, to be careful, and to never give up.
Jason Craft, Eastern Region
For us, it’s had a material impact on our business, there’s no doubt about that. More importantly, I am incredibly thankful and proud of the resiliency, commitment and dedication of our entire NYC team in how they have continued to provide our essential service throughout this pandemic. Their execution has been heroic.
We run the day route in Manhattan and every day we ran our route making sure our customers were serviced.
Moises Acevedo, Operations Manager Bronx
Stan Sroka,Maintenance Manager
Everything we do is to protect our employees so they can go home to their families safely. It was a total team effort between maintaining our trucks and keeping them sanitized during COVID-19.
Anthony Gibaldi, Operations Supervisor and
Joe Marsiello, Operations Manager, Brooklyn
Getting our men home safe every night is our focus. Keeping them safe during COVID -19 meant a total company effort. We secured supplies from PA, upstate NY and across the entire Waste Connections company.
I never knew I was essential until it was essential that we showed up and serviced our customers to keep NYC clean.