What it’s really like to be a bin collector – a ‘binie’s’ story

A team at Swansea has just won an Inspire! Award for learning – and one ‘binie’ has shared an average day on a busy round in the city

Heavy lifting in all weathers, risking injury and facing abuse is all in a day’s work for Swansea’s ‘binies’.

Now the team supporting the people who collect and deal with the city’s rubbish every day, have received a national award, for their new scheme that offers staff an industry-recognised qualification.

The Inspire! Awards are hosted each year ahead of Adult Learners’ Week – initiatives coordinated by Learning and Work Institute with support from the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund. Inspire! Award winners are rewarded for demonstrating the power of learning in raising expectations, building confidence and developing vibrant and successful communities, and their stories featured as part of Adult Learners’ Week, which took place earlier this month.

The Waste Management Team, who took the ‘Skills At Work’ award, is one of 12 winners who were recognised in a prestigious ceremony in Cardiff.

City and County of Swansea (the local council) wanted to work with staff to change attitudes towards the waste sector, so it joined forces with GCS Training at Gower College Swansea last year, to deliver a traineeship that would provide waste management staff with a qualification.

Many people who join the industry start on zero hours contracts via agencies, but those successfully completing the new nine-month course delivered by the college will leave with a Waste and Management Industry Training Advisory Board (WAMITAB) diploma and the offer of a full-time, permanent job at the council.

Gareth Payne is employed by the college as an Adult Learning tutor and runs the course at Swansea  Baling Plant in Llansamlet. His job is to upskill the recruits in everything from health and safety, hazardous waste handling and creating a better work-life balance. He said:

“It’s a physical, hard, smelly job with challenges every day – and it’s their job to keep everyone safe.

“We all want our bins collected and our waste dealt with, but many people don’t realise just how tough a job it is.”

As part of the traineeship, all learners, who work in several roles across the waste process, must achieve the Level 2 WAMITAB Diploma in Sustainable Resource Activities. Two hundred people applied when it launched last spring, and all of the 10 taken on the first course passed and have since been employed full-time by the council, with a new course now running.

“Many of the trainees hadn’t been in a classroom for ages,” said Gareth, who is also studying for his Level 4 in Waste Management at the college.

“If you’ve been out of school for a while and maybe you didn’t do particularly well, it’s easy to feel like learning isn’t for you and you’ve missed your shot. But that’s not the case.”

“If we can support people with adult learning, we can help them to achieve a potential they maybe didn’t know they had.”

Matthew Jones, from Clase, in Swansea, completed his traineeship last December, after spending three years working on a zero hours contract for an agency. The 37-year-old qualified with an NVQ Level 2 Waste Management diploma and is employed full-time by the council. The LGV driver carrier manages a 26-tonne, 12ft lorry and helps the collection team working across around 25,000 properties per day.

“It’s a brilliant scheme,” he said.

“Having a qualification behind me makes me feel more respected – and the industry needs that. We’re on the front line every day.”

Matthew’s job starts with a lorry check at 6.30am, before he’s assigned a round as part of a team that can work anywhere in the city, before returning to the plant for sorting or bulking.

“It’s a dangerous job,” he said. “We hit the school run every day and we get children running out into the road, cars driving up on the pavements because they won’t wait 30 seconds for me to move. We do get some some abuse, but on the whole, people are absolutely lovely and I love chatting with neighbours.”

Matthew will soon be enrolling onto the Level 3 WAMITAB qualification, which will provide him with an A-Level equivalent and allow him to apply for management positions.

To find out more about adult learning and for personalised advice on your own learning options and support available, get in touch with Working Wales – the Welsh Government’s new, free service delivered by Careers Wales. Call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844, visit your local Careers centre, or search www.workingwales.gov.wales