Tough Jobs Tuesday: Mackinac Island Garbage Day

Mackinac Island is a prime summertime destination for thousands of visitors to Northern Michigan.

But all those people on the island generate lots and lots of garbage, and there is only one way to get it all off.

For today’s Tough Jobs Tuesday, 9&10’s David Lyden takes us to Mackinac Island for garbage day.

 “Garbage day on Mackinac Island is an everyday process, from the day we start running to the day we stop running due to ice,” says Greg Bawol. 

It’s a job that’s become routine for Greg Bawol and the entire crew at Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, loading garbage trucks on their freight barge and taking them to the island to haul garbage off.

“For us, it’s not difficult, it’s more tedious. It’s just monotonous and every day you go here, drop these guys off. If the trucks were on the island it would be a little different, but because we have to bring them over, then they have to go to the dump, see what’s there, bring the full ones back,” explains Greg.  

We’re moving across the Straits at about 10 miles per hour. Today we’re hauling three empty dumpsters to the island and returning with three full ones. This time of year is spent catching up with all the garbage that couldn’t get hauled off the island during the winter. In a few months, things will get busier and much more smelly.

“People don’t really know how much garbage comes off this island. There’s an average in July and August, the busy months, six dumpsters a day of trash,” says Greg. “On a warm July, August day.”

All the trucks are owned by the Mackinac Island Service Company. A.J. Baker is one of the drivers. He’s been at this job about six years. He says driving a truck on the island brings its own set of unique challenges.

“There’s a lot of tourists and horse and buggies, and anytime you go anywhere downtown, especially in the summertime, which isn’t very often, you have to have a police escort,” says A.J. “Placement of the dumpsters, sometimes you have to place them all over the island at the end of the season, and sometimes it’s in some pretty tough spots, but we always manage.”

Being one of the few vehicles that can drive on the island, A.J. draws some interesting looks, and comments.

“I had one lady ask me how I got on the island. I just told her, ‘I don’t know, I’ve been riding around for six hours looking for the exit for I-75’. She looked at me like I was from outer space,” says A.J.

Through the year, tens of thousands of pounds of garbage will be hauled off the island. It’s a job they know is greatly appreciated.

“Five 30-yard dumpsters a day, that’s a lot of trash, and you can only imagine. I don’t know how they would do this if it wasn’t for this service.”