Living through coronavirus: For this trash collector, tossed items bring greater concern

Joel McDonald touches what the public has tossed away.

And that includes used tissues and paper towels.

As a trash collector for Rumpke Waste & Recycling for 15 years, McDonald has changed the way he views some items through concerns about coronavirus.

“I just never thought about that before,” said McDonald, 41, whose route includes parts of Hamilton and Fairfield. “But now I have taken a special interest because those items could carry something.”

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To reduce the possibility of infection, McDonald continues to wear leather gloves for protection. But because of the coronavirus, he continually applies hand sanitizer and thoroughly washes his hands before he eats or drinks on the job.

He asked residents to place their dirty tissues and paper towels in trash bags to reduce the possibility of those items coming in contact with Rumpke employees. Also, he said, tissues, towels and other possibly contaminated paper products should not be placed in a recycling bin.

The coronavirus has impacted McDonald’s job two more ways: Since more residents are working from home instead of their workplace that has generated additional residential trash, but also lowered the number of vehicles and school buses on the road, making them safer.

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“That’s a big ease on me,” he said of the reduced traffic. “I guess you have to say that’s a blessing in all this.”

At least twice within the last two years in Butler County, two people have died in crashes involving a Rumpke truck. In February 2020, a 52-year-old woman died after a crash in the 6700 block of Stillwell Beckett Road, according to Oxford Twp. police. She was driving east on Stillwell Beckett near Oxford Reily Road when she struck the stopped trash truck, police said.

Then in July 2018, a Rumpke driver, dressed in appropriate reflective safety gear and all truck safety lights operational, was struck and killed on Central Avenue in Middletown, according to Lt. Clint Arnold of the Hamilton Highway Patrol Post.

The Rumpke employee, David J. Evans, was pinned between the back of the trash truck and a pickup truck in the crash and died at the hospital, according to the OSHP.

McDonald starts his shift at 3:40 a.m. and works until the “job is done,” he said. He could work as short as five hours or as long as 11 hours, depending on the amount of trash and the weather.

At home, McDonald and his wife, Rella, constantly remind their son, Joel, 9, to use proper hygiene.

“It’s always, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that,’” he said.


We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email

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