The ‘garbage guy’ walks 12 miles a day around D.C. picking up trash: ‘I’ll pick up pretty much anything.’
“It’s just something I do,” he said. “It’s become part of my routine.”
At around 8:30 a.m., he leaves his house, which is just above the DC line, trash bag in hand, and is ready for a brisk 12-mile journey through town. He usually walks down Massachusetts Avenue and then to 14th Street. He constantly crouches to collect the rubbish he spots along the way.
Adams is dressed in active clothing and tracks his walk on a sports watch. It collects everything in sight, from plastic water bottles to food packaging, beer cans and disposable face masks. Lots of masks.
“I’ll pick up pretty much everything,” said Adams. He doesn’t wear plastic gloves, he noted, but he washes his hands when he stops on the way.
Eventually he turns home and usually walks from Q Street to Georgetown, where he throws his first trash bag in a public trash can. Then he stops at a Starbucks on M Street for a grande Americano – and asks for a fresh garbage bag. He always leaves a tip of $ 1.
Starbucks employees said they met Adams as the “garbage man”. They often have a bag ready for him when he visits the store.
“I was confused when it first came in,” said Ahmed Oukchir, the store manager at M Street Starbucks. “I thought why does he ask for garbage bags every day? What’s the matter with this guy? ‘”
Although Oukchir was stunned by the request, he gave Adams a fresh bag every time he visited. He soon realized what the bag was for.
“I saw him picking up rubbish outside the store and I said, ‘Don’t worry about that,” Oukchir recalled. Adams smiled at him, then kept cleaning, he said.
Adams shows up at Starbucks most days of the week and “sometimes he comes in twice a day,” Oukchir said.
“He’s always cleaning parks, streets and back streets,” he said, adding that because of Adams, Oukchir is now more aware of the waste in the city. “Billy really inspired me. If everyone does their part, the world will change. “
That is certainly Adams’ motto. While his daily garbage collection is mostly a one-man mission, “I would love to see more people doing this,” he said.
Viewers and friends have taken note of Adams’ trash haulage habit, including his fitness instructor Jamie Bredbenner.
“He always collects rubbish when it rains, snow, sleet or hail,” said Bredbenner, who works at the Bodysmith Gym. “I admire it so much. I do it in my own neighborhood while walking my dog. “
Adams also picks up trash on his way from home to the gym for a workout session. And when he wants to leave the gym, he says: Do you have a trash bag? On the way back, I like to collect rubbish, ”said India Taylor, who works at the gym reception.
Adams began picking up trash on a regular basis back in June, but his daily walks became a ritual as part of a rigorous exercise routine more than a decade ago.
“I also swim and lift weights four times a week,” he said. “This thing happened to me in 2011 and changed my life. I realized I needed to be healthier, and walking is only part of that. “
Adams was on vacation in Hawaii with his wife and three children when his family decided to go ziplining.
“They have to weigh you and I remember those two women behind the counter looking at each other and I said, ‘Oh my god, did I get that big?'” He said.
Adams, a senior executive at a software company, said his previous job, which he left in 2018, sparked an unhealthy lifestyle.
“I worked on a case for nine months and didn’t have a day off,” he said. “I didn’t go home on the weekends and slept in the office. I’ve put on a lot. “
“As soon as we got back from Hawaii, I decided to go to work,” Adams said, adding that his former office was about five miles from his home. “Then it became part of my daily routine.”
When the pandemic broke out, he vowed to keep walking even though he was working from home and had nowhere to go. Adam’s work day usually starts around noon as his company is headquartered in Australia, which gives him the flexibility to work out in the morning. He takes all early phone calls on foot and explores new areas of the city.
Then he took note of all the trash that “really bothered me,” said Adams, who grew up in Bethesda.
So he grabbed a bag and started collecting trash. He learned that his new ritual was immensely satisfying.
“The garbage is simply out of place. it doesn’t belong there. Finishing my projects is definitely a reward, “said Adams, explaining that he frequently changes his walkways, which he refers to as his” projects, “to make sure it covers as many areas as possible in DC. “If you see it beforehand, then you walk past it afterwards and it’s all clean, that’s a good feeling.”
“You’re starting to pick up patterns,” Adams explained. He now assigns different areas to certain types of garbage. For example, the Capital Crescent Trail has become a popular practice site during the pandemic, he explained. “There you will always find strawberry and banana general contractor energy packages and Nature Valley muesli bar packaging.”
While Adam’s usual cleanup – which usually takes three hours – may be unusual, exercising while picking up trash is actually something of a trend. There is a popular Swedish fitness craze for collecting garbage called “plogging”, a mix of jogging and “plocka upp” – Swedish to pick up. In recent years, plogging groups have popped up around the world, including in the DC area.
Adams doesn’t want to start a plogging group, he said, but he does encourage friends and family to trash him, including his sister Caroline Miller, who has accompanied him with her husband several times.
“People know who he is. They wave to him, they honk at him, ”said 59-year-old Miller. “But he’s determined to do it, whether people join him and support him or not. I am amazed at his focus and strength. “
According to Miller, the daily trash hauls exemplify her brother’s nature.
“Billy is someone who likes to do the right thing. He’s very moral and if he sees trash on the floor he can’t just walk past it, ”she said.
When Miller goes for a walk with her brother, he notices that he is “constantly scanning the area,” she said. “Where my husband and I saw a sidewalk, Billy saw trash.”
“If I go now, I’ll look for garbage. It’s contagious for you, and anyone who’s gone for a walk with Billy would think the same, ”Miller added.
For Adams, he hopes his garbage disposal will motivate others to throw away less garbage and pick up more.
“I hope people see me and leave. Hey, maybe next time I’ll bring a trash bag and do that too,” he said. “Just picking up trash makes a big difference.”