Michael Wong-Sasso, a five-year-old from Granada Hills in Los Angeles County, Calif., has been obsessed with garbage since he could talk. In fact, one of his first sentences was, “I saw a green trash truck.”
Since then, the little boy has done everything he can to learn about the business by regularly touring the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar, Calif., near his home; visiting three other local landfills in the area, as well as composting facilities; taking tours of truck manufacturing plants; and attending WasteExpo 2001 in Chicago. He even had his fifth birthday party in Sunshine Canyon's oak tree mitigation nursery and had a blast with friends jumping into the clean compost pile.
His mother, Sophia Wong, says he has been a positive influence to everyone around him. “We started recycling … and we now have a green waste composter,” she says. Michael also has brought at least 150 classmates, friends and their parents on landfill tours, hoping to fire the same kind of passion he has. And the parents are as fascinated as the children.
“Most parents say they didn't think [the landfill] would look like this … they thought it would look like a hole in the ground with rats running around,” Wong says. They also can see how much recyclable material is being dumped into landfills, and how easy it can be to divert this waste, she adds.
Michael's favorite pastime is watching waste equipment in motion. He has befriended the family's green waste collector, Gilbert Gregory, who works for the city of Los Angeles' Department of Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation. In fact, Michael recently wrote a book about Gilbert's job, called “Michael and the Green Trash Truck,” which a few equipment manufacturers have expressed interest in publishing, Wong says. “I'm still looking for someone to publish the book, though,” she adds. As research for his book, Michael visited the nearby green waste recycling plant and a private disposal company that recycles paper and aluminum products.
Michael's mentor is Larry L. Cubit, a manager at the Sunshine Hills facility, who has even given Michael a job application (when he's ready, of course).
Michael has dubbed the front loader his favorite piece of equipment — he hopes to drive one someday. Eventually, he'd like to be a trash collector for Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), part of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Allied Industries Inc.. But for now, Michael's interests lie in the movement of the equipment and the processes of hauling and dumping waste.
According to his mother, “Every time he sees a new manufacturer on the road, he tells me to call them for a tour. He wants to see anything trash-related.” It looks as if Michael has elevated trash talk to an entirely new level.