Making the most
Do you wonder what happens to the items you put in the recycling bin after it gets collected? CAMILLA donned a high visibility jacket and joined Chiltern’s recycling team to find out
IT HAS never been easier for the people of Chiltern to recycle household waste, thanks to the service that was introduced in the district last year. Vast improvements came about after Chiltern and Wycombe councils agreed to a joint recycling and rubbish collection contract with Serco.
Before the changes, householders had to put out glass for recycling in one box and were given another box for paper and cardboard.
Under the new set-up, more types of recycling materials are collected, including garden waste, plastics, textiles, batteries and cans.
Most homes have a box for paper and cardboard, a dark blue wheelie-bin for all other recycling items, a brown bin for food waste and a black wheelie bin for rubbish destined for land fill.
Recycling collections are fortnightly, alternating with rubbish, and food waste is collected weekly. Residents can pay extra for a garden waste bin, where they can put clippings, lawnmowings and sweepings.
The aim is to recycle 60 per cent of household waste across both council areas by next year. They are already on their way, with recycling rates up from 41 per cent to 48 per cent.
The lead contract manager for Serco, Mark Sturgeon, says people rarely give much thought to what happens to recycling items after they are collected from the doorstep.
“In the most part what happens to the recycling is taken for granted,” he explained. “People put the waste into the containers and no one really thinks about what’s involved.”
I went along to meet the people at the Serco depot in London Road West, Amersham, on Thursday last week to find out more.
Chiltern has 12 teams based there – four which look after recycling, four for refuse collection and four for garden waste. The recycling and garden waste crews are made up of a driver and two loaders and a refuse crew is a driver and three loaders.
All Serco collection staff have extensive health and safety training, to ensure both the crews and public are kept safe while they are out on the road.
A typical day for a crew starts at the Amersham depot at 6.45am, so they are ready to start collecting from homes at 7am.
All the vehicles have radio trackers so staff at the depot know where each collection lorry is and where it has been. The vehicles will be fitted with technology which will allow crews to send back live reports to the depot, such as a property’s bin not being put out for collection. This will help the staff who answer phone inquiries from the public and deal with complaints about collections.
The crews’ routes are planned to cause minimal disruption but, inevitably, some people will get stuck behind a vehicle for a few moments.
Mr Sturgeon said: “They’re not deliberately putting the vehicle in your way or deliberately annoying you. They’re just going about their job the best way they can. We’re providing a very valuable service collecting valuable commodities. We’re not there to hack off anyone.”
The crews also have to put up with abuse from some unhappy householders, but they are trained to always be polite. The phones team also have to deal with some aggresive customers – with people even calling to complain about the colour of the bins.
The crews work in all weather conditions and tend to finish their shift back at the depot at 4.30pm. They give up some Saturdays and bank holidays to make sure collections are kept up with.
I went out with recycling and refuse manager Rob Wild, to see one of the teams in action in Lynton Road, Chesham.
Mr Wild is a former professional footballer and played for Newcastle United when Kevin Keegan was club manager. He says the demands of the job tested even his fitness levels to the limit.
“I’d never been fitter,” he added. “They don’t hang around. They keep up a fast pace either running or fast walking and it gets you really fit.”
He was not joking. It was a struggle to keep up with the two loaders as they collected Lynton Road’s recycling on a scorchingly hot day, constantly communicating with each other to ensure they did not miss a household. It made me tired just watching the pair.
The recycling bins had to be checked for incorrect contents – such as paper in the mixed bin and glass in the paper and card box.
If a bin is ‘contaminated’ it will not be emptied, to avoid the risk of materials already on the lorry being affected. In such as case, the team leaves a note on the bin explaining why it was not collected.
The recycling lorries have compartments for the wheelie bin items and paper and card materials and another for food waste. At the end of the day’s round, it’s back to the depot for unloading.
There, the vehicle is weighed twice, when it arrives and after it
PILED HIGH: A mountain of plastic items before further sorting at the depot
IN Refuse manager Rob Wild (right) and Chiltern’s cabinet member for waste and customer services, Councillor Peter Martin pictured with Camilla Goodman
ON A ROUND: Crew members loading recycling materials into their vehicle in Lynton Road, Chesham
FIRST CHECK: A driver weighing his loaded-up recycling vehicle on arrival at the depot in London Road West, Amersham