There are lots of reasons to attend WasteExpo in Dallas this month, but one of the best is to attend the Environmental Industry Associations’ (EIA) Awards and Inspirational Breakfast. At this annual event, EIA will once again honor its Drivers of the Year (DOY), recognizing individuals who truly represent the professionalism exhibited by garbage and recycling collectors throughout the United States.

The 2011 DOY award recipients are great examples of EIA’s “Environmentalists. Every Day.” program. They and other drivers and helpers are on the front lines, protecting the environment and public health by efficiently and reliably collecting trash. Studies have shown that Americans have great respect for their garbage collectors, considering them trustworthy, reliable and hardworking. People recognize that collecting waste is difficult work. Drivers must safely navigate busy streets, rain (and other forms of precipitation) or shine, night and day, braving extreme cold and heat.

In 2011, EIA honors the following drivers:

Danny McIntyre has driven a garbage truck driver for 18 years with Republic Services of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. He will receive the DOY award in the large commercial category. McIntyre drives 600 miles and averages 1,200 commercial pickups per week. Republic extols his exceptional attention to customer service.

Eugene Schmidtke has driven a garbage truck for 20 years, the past 16 with Veolia Environmental Services in Ocala, Fla. He will receive the DOY award in the large industrial category. Schmidtke drives 900 miles and averages 50 to 60 pickups per week as a single driver. The company’s other drivers call him “Top Dog,” and he hand washes his truck after each day’s route.

For 15 years, Keith Pilot has driven a garbage truck for Republic Services of Southern Nevada in Henderson. He will receive the DOY award in the large residential category. Pilot drives 250 miles and averages 6,400 pickups per week with a crew. The customers on his route recognize him for his kindness and special consideration for children.

John Whittaker, who for 12 years has driven a garbage truck for Salt Lake County in Midvale, Utah, will receive the DOY award in the public sector category. Whittaker drives 750 miles of city streets per week, averaging 170 pickups as a single driver. His supervisor describes him as a team leader with a positive attitude toward fellow drivers.

Brian LaRotonda has driven a garbage truck for 11 years, the past six with Mr. T Carting Corp. in Glendale, N.Y. He will receive the DOY award in the small commercial category. LaRotonda drives 300 miles and averages 1,130 pickups per week with a crew. His company said he jumps right in after his regular route to help out with boxes and is always willing to cover other routes.

Edward Aubin Sr. has driven a garbage truck for Rice, Va.-based Arena Trucking Co. for 24 years. He will receive the DOY award in the small industrial category. Aubin drives 800 miles and averages 25 pickups per week as a single driver. He is described as dedicated to his company’s well-being and is known for going out of his way to service customers.

Tony Louzon, who for 13 years has driven a garbage truck with ACE Solid Waste in Ramsey, Minn., will receive the DOY award in the small residential category. Louzon drives 690 miles and averages 3,530 pickups per week as a single driver. His supervisors note that Louzon always keeps his truck clean and that he serves as a mentor to other drivers.

For more information, visit www.everydayenvironmentalists.org/EIA/DOYawards.

Thomas Metzger is director of communications and public affairs for the National Solid Wastes Management Association. Reach him at (202) 364-3751.