IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE, but another year has nearly come and gone, and that means the holiday season is here. The holidays are about many things: parties, precious time away from the hustle and bustle of the office, and a chance to see family and longtime friends. They also are about giving, something that is all too often lost in the season's hubbub.

Therefore, it's heartening to see that the solid waste industry places such an emphasis on reaching out to those in need during the year's final weeks. Examples of hauling firms attempting to improve the well-being of their communities are legion.

For instance, each year at this time, the operating companies of San Francisco-based Norcal Waste Systems Inc. undertake their “Coats for Kids” campaign. After getting word of the program out to their customers, the firms designate a week in which the customers can place a new or used coat out by the curb with their solid waste collectibles.

After taking in the coats, the operating companies take them to dry cleaners and, after that, to places such as community centers or vacant store buildings, where underprivileged residents can get them.

Headquartered way across the continental U.S., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services Inc. — whose slogan is “A company that cares” — also makes substantial efforts to reach out during the holidays.

Each year, volunteers from the firm's corporate office plan, prepare and serve a holiday meal for the 200 residents of the Broward Partnership for the Homeless shelter in Broward County, Fla. The company also mounts an annual holiday fundraising drive for the United Way of Broward County.

Republic's holiday charity efforts don't stop there. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the firm's employees and their families gather with workers from the Children's Diagnostic & Treatment Center and Federal Express to assemble food bags for needy families in the greater Ft. Lauderdale area.

Finally, the company also undertakes a holiday project with ChildNet, a non-profit organization that manages the protection system for abused, neglected and abandoned children in Broward County. The children who are under the care of ChildNet fill out a wish list of pressents they would like to receive, and Republic employees purchase the gifts.

Haulers sometimes comment that their fine everyday efforts go unappreciated by the residents they serve. However, there's no doubt that their displays of the true meaning of the holidays mean the world to their surrounding communities. The programs have certainly impressed those of us here at Waste Age and, because of that, we wish our readers an extra hearty “Happy Holidays.”

The author is the editor of Waste Age