'While You Were Sleeping': Taking out the trash takes all night for local crews

Tiger Sanitation collects thousands of pounds of trash each day

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter, Tim Stewart - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - It’s something to which most people don’t give a lot of thought. But without the overnight work of one local company, trash would be foremost on a lot of people’s minds.

“The stereotypical thing is everybody wants to call us trash men. We're not trash men. We're drivers. We're professional drivers,” said Henry Esquivel, who supervises more than a dozen trash-collecting crews for Tiger Sanitation each night.

The San Antonio-based company services businesses, homes and construction sites across Bexar County and beyond.

Prior to overseeing the crews, Esquivel, himself, was a driver.

For 15 years, he steered the super-sized trucks through the city’s streets.

“Empty, they’re about 35,000 pounds,” he said. “Loaded, they can go anywhere from 45,000-50,000 pounds.”

Just driving them can be tough, he said.  

When street closures and road construction detours are added to the mix, it becomes an intense challenge.

“New curbs being built, new buildings, underground plumbing and stuff going on,” said Kacy Johnson, a longtime driver. “Your head's got to be on a swivel, I mean, with what's going on around you.”

Driving through downtown’s streets, Johnson often finds himself navigating through narrow alleys and small spaces—a task that he says takes lots of training and skill.

He also has seen a lot in his decade of collecting trash for Tiger, everything from pets to people inside dumpsters.

“I've actually had someone in a dumpster that actually made it into my truck. He made it out alive and he was OK, but it was a scary type of situation,” Johnson recalled.

Unlike the common saying, Johnson says he has never found treasure in anyone else’s trash.  Everything he values is at home.

“My treasure is getting home safely to my kids every day and earning a good living,” he said.

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