Q&A with a refuse collector

What is it like emptying bins for a living? We asked Dave, a council refuse collector of ten years’ experience about the ups and downs of working in waste management.

What’s your average day like?

Get to the depot about 5.30am, and hit the roads around six, doing a single mapped round. It’s not as hard as it used to be now that it’s all wheelie bins, but we’ve got to work quickly to get the work all done in time, as routes have got longer over the years. Then we drive over to the waste plant outside town, dump the rubbish with them, and back to depot and home. Getting up early’s not much of a problem for me anymore, and at least I get to finish at 1.30pm.

What’s the worst part of the job?

There’s loads of things. Nobody mentioned the early mornings with pouring rain when you go to the job interview, for a start. Then there’s people who fill their bins with rubble instead of getting a skip or taking it to the tip. Oh, and drivers giving you abuse because they think you’re blocking the road. We do a crucial job – what if we give their street a miss for a month or so? Oh, and people giving you grief. Be nice to your bin men (and ladies) people!

And the best part?

Nice people coming to say hello when you empty their bin. One or two people even offer us a cuppa on a cold morning. Finishing in the early afternoon.

Has the job changed since you started?

Absolutely. We only used to have a single round for general rubbish, but now recycling means we have extra rounds for glass and paper and the like. The glass one’s the best, the big crash of bottles is my favourite sound.

Don’t you – you know – smell?

Since we stopped carrying bins around and started using wheelie bins, you hardly touch the rubbish these days. Yeah, the truck has a certain aroma about it, but a good shower after work and you’d never notice the difference.

What’s the funniest thing you saw?

The wheelie bin filled with helium balloons. My mate opened the lid and they all flew out. Of course it was April Fool’s day, and the kid who did it was filming it.

And the worst?

Dead pets. You’re not even supposed to put things like that in the bin. Horrible.

Teddy bears on the front of dump trucks. Is it cruel?

Ha ha! No. They love it. They’re having the time of their lives up front.