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Refuse supervisor looks back at 50 years on the bins

A refuse supervisor who has been collecting waste and recycling in Charnwood for 56 years, has shared some of his memories upon his retirement.

Mick Wright started as a refuse collector for Barrow Upon Soar Rural District Council on May 3, 1968. His employment continued with Charnwood Borough Council in 1974 and then the companies which secured the Council’s waste contract thereafter including Sita, Onyx (which became Veolia) and more recently Serco which has been the Council’s refuse partner since 2009.

Leicester Time: Refuse supervisor looks back at 50 years on the bins
Picture: Charnwood Borough Council

To set the scene in 1968, the first refuse depot Mick worked from was on Cemetery Road in Sileby, and the Council offices were on Fowkes Street in Rothley. His first round took place in Birstall.

From the bins and refuse vehicles through to the uniform and health and safety, it isn’t just the Council which has changed in 56 years. Residents didn’t even have a specific bin day back then!

Mick explains how some things have changed over the years “I think one of the biggest differences is the type of bin. When I first started, homes had one metal bin and we used to go down alleyways and into gardens to collect them.

“That meant we got to know residents more than crews may do now. I would lift the bin onto my back and shoulders and then empty it into the truck.

“When recycling was first introduced, we had boxes for glass and bags for recycling before the wheelie bins arrived.

“Also, people didn’t have a bin day as such, we would complete the rounds throughout the week and because we were going onto their property to collect the bin, they didn’t need to worry about presenting it for collection on ‘bin day’.

“The trucks weren’t as big or technical either! Smaller 18 tonne trucks used to collect the waste compared to the 32 tonne lorries that residents see on the road today which have a range of safety features and software installed.

“There were no hi-vis vests or gloves provided back in the 1970s! Sometimes on really cold days, I would wear two pairs of socks and use one of the pairs as gloves because my hands were freezing.”

Mick also reflects on the uniform when he first started compared to the orange high vis jackets and trousers the crews wear today.

“Back in the 1970s, we were issued with one uniform per year – a navy and white bib and braces along with a denim jacket. Very different to the hi-vis uniforms which are worn by crews today.”

Throughout the years, Mick has been a refuse collector and HGV Class 2 driver before moving into a supervisory role in 2001.

He added: “Every job comes with ups and downs and that’s the same with the different roles I’ve done. However, even with the early mornings and the cold, wet or frosty weather, I’ve enjoyed them all. Even though I’ve been here 56 years, I’ve still not been formally told I’ve passed my six-month probation!

“Although things have changed over the years, there are different pressures and demands on our crews today and they work just as hard.”