I once saw a ‘garbo’ with a tattoo of a giant dumpster on his back bearing the skull and crossbones. Rubbish removal guys also love their tattoos. Another bloke in the waste management business had a tattoo of a pile of stinking rubbish with the words ‘Such Is Life’ printed beneath the image. The tattoo is a mark of shared passion and membership of some secret order. The rubbish removal guys, like the ‘night soil’ chaps from yesteryear, are involved in a business that the most people consider a bit stinky.

Their tattoos proudly tell each other that they work with waste, when others are too weak to stay the distance. They make good money from our trash and stench; but they are bigger than the mess. They clean up after us and keep the consumer industry turning over for capitalism. They empty our bins and collect our recyclables; they maintain the system, without them we would be neck high in our own shit. A tattoo of a Phoenix rising above a garbage tip is a statement, as is a  wheelie bin with a heart emerging from inside it, and swords entwined with garlands of litter.

Men and women who work in waste are warriors keeping our streets clean, when the garbos go on strike, the city stinks and the rubbish blows down boulevards and main streets. When the garbage trucks are silent the filth builds up all around us and we wonder what the hell has happened. Where are our tattooed brothers and sisters who traverse the city streets in the early hours wearing their special Eau de Cologne? Will these warriors with brooms and shovels bare their flesh with a bend and bum crack exposed, showing St George and his dragon hard at it?

Industrial rubbish removal is a special business and only the hardy survive. An understanding wife or partner is needed and plenty of hot water and a big bathroom. One fella I caught sight of, carrying a trash can across his back, had a tattoo of slaughtered lamb emblazoned on his bicep bearing the missive ‘Blessed are the sheep’. I thought that was beautiful and a poignant symbol for the sacrifices that rubbish removal guys make on our behalf. This town would not smell half so sweet if it was not for the actions and dedication of those who work in waste management. Rubbish removal guys also love their tattoos and they deserve our every respect.