Unsung Heroes: Refuse collectors and street cleansing operatives

They visit up to 1,600 homes a day and their workloads have skyrocketed in recent weeks with the lockdown having contributed to hundreds of tonnes more waste and recycling being put out on our doorsteps.

Refuse collectors are currently shifting more rubbish than the Christmas period.


Adrian Wright who is a recycling lorry driver at Kier in Bridgend said:

“With households not going to work, eating and drinking at home and buying stuff online, there’s a tremendous amount of extra work.

“It’s like Christmas everyday with the amount of bags we’re picking up.

“We are recognised as key workers and if we weren’t doing our jobs, it would be a hell of a mess and could lead to rat infestations, it’s important to keep the place tidy.

“While some of the older residents have always come out to give us cans of Coke, we’re now getting children putting drawings and sweets on the wall, and running off.

“We’ve had Easter eggs, biscuits, pop – we appreciate what people are doing.”

Chris Pothecary has worked as a refuse collector for 20 years, driving the lorries which pick up the blue bags across the county borough.

He said:

“It’s absolutely mental at the moment but it’s got to be done.

“It’s worse than Christmas, so many people are at home, creating a lot more rubbish.

“With a lot more cars parked in streets now as well, it can be quite hard for us to get about.

“The whole of life is a bit different and it’s a challenging time for everyone. I am cautious and a bit paranoid – when getting home I’ll have a bath straight away and limit contact, I no longer kiss my little girl good night.”

Leeann Neagle, operations manager at Kier, said the company had undertaken several inductions for agency staff to ensure they have enough people to cover those having to self-isolate.

She said:

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our teams are paramount, and during this time, we have put additional runs in to help support the crews and everyone is pulling together – I’m really proud of them.

“With many people now at home, they’re seeing the guys working, picking up our waste and keeping our home lives as pleasant as possible.

“Seeing messages up in people’s windows, thanking them for their contribution as key workers means a lot to them.

“Everyone’s got their own concerns with their families – for our teams to come in every day and display such positivity, dedication and commitment despite everything that’s going on, and their increased workloads is outstanding.”


Kier in Bridgend has 112 staff in total, including admin staff and its call centre.

Kier continues to follow government guidelines and has introduced a number of new measures, at its depot and when carrying out rounds.

The council’s own street cleansing team are also playing a vital role, emptying public bins, ensuring streets are kept clean and clearing away fly-tipping.


Team leader Robert Davies said:

“We’ve seen a big increase in fly-tipping and people putting their household waste into public bins.

“The biggest challenge in recent weeks has been changing the way we work especially when working as part of a team to meet the social distancing regulations.

“We’ve had to reduce the contact we have with each other, some operatives work in their local area and others take vehicles home with them.”


Council leader Huw David said:

“We are very thankful for our refuse crews and street cleansing teams who are doing a phenomenal job at keeping our county borough clean and tidy.

“It’s great to see some of the messages from residents and their children thanking them for their hard work at this extremely challenging time.

“Their role is vital for the health of everyone – waste lying around is a health hazard.

“We understand some residents are keen to see the two rubbish bag limit lifted but if we did this the volume of waste would mean Kier would be unable to complete their daily rounds.

“The amount of recycling householders can put out is unlimited, we ask residents to bear with us at the very challenging time.”

To help our refuse collectors:

  • Please park considerately and bear in mind refuse lorries need space to get through.
  • If people are self-isolating please double bag your rubbish – when the bags go into the refuse lorry and the rammer comes down, sometimes they burst and its contents could go in to the atmosphere
  • Please help to keep our refuse collectors safe by keeping to social distancing guidelines.