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Lessons Learned from The Garbologists

Nov 17, 2021

Written by Paige Price, Producing Artistic Director - Philadelphia Theatre Company

If we’ve learned anything in the lead up to Lindsay Joelle’s The Garbologists, it’s that every Philadelphian has at least one story about garbage. Things they’ve taken from the curb (or ‘mongo-ed’)... the strange distances their bins have traveled down the street... even the number of times their own bins have been stolen. 

But underneath these anecdotes is a worker often forgotten — their value distilled into whether or not the garbage was picked up on time and not much else. These are very much the voices that we hope to amplify with this show and our hashtag #SupportSanitationWorkers. The “refuse scientists” in The Garbologists – Marlowe and Danny are unexpected, funny, compassionate, and most importantly they’re human.

“The reason I’m so excited for this play is that it magnifies the human side of sanitation workers. It makes you realize that sanitation workers can be cool too. The Philadelphia Theatre Company has done an absolute wonderful job in displaying real life scenarios that sanitation workers deal with. My hope is that this play touches Philadelphia the way it touched me.” - Terrill ‘Ya Fav Trashman” Haigler

In the wake of COVID and with a troubling lack of PPE, the city’s sanitation department found itself a new voice in Billy Penn Philadelphian of the Year, Terrill “Ya Fav Trashman” Haigler. During a time when the phrase “essential worker” was trending nationwide, YaFav became a voice for Philly’s sanitation community. The originator of the hashtag #SupportSanitation, Haiger has raised money for worker PPE and also to clean up Philly through his non-profit Trash2Treasure. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also coming out with a children’s book called “I’m Cool, Too” inspired by conversations with his own children and intended to destigmatize sanitation work.

Ya Fav is working with PTC to revive the hashtag and create layers of online resources to ensure that the conversation continues past the next news cycle. This includes the creation and distribution of #SupportSanitationWorker recycling bin stickers available for free at the theatre and city wide (including at partners such as the newly-opened upcycling non-profit at Bok, FABSCRAP, as well as The Neon Museum who are hosting a show on Crafting with Trash). 

While we dream of bins around Philly showing support for years to come, we also know that’s only the beginning. PTC will be posting resources as well as creating a webpage with Haigler to highlight what we can all do to help from being more mindful about how we throw away knives to where one can sign up for a neighborhood clean up. We’ve also commissioned season artist, and Philly native Alloyius Mcilwaine, to paint 5 city recycling bins for PTC and Ya Fav to auction throughout the run of the show. 

With this first show back we wanted to reach out into all parts of the Philly community to convene around this important, essential work...and also come together again in the theatre space. It feels great to have our doors open once again, but it feels even better to feel and laugh together again.  

We hope you can join us in welcoming, appreciating, and supporting Sanitation Workers!