Day in the life – Recycling Lorry Driver working for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council

Day in the life – Recycling Lorry Driver working for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council

Have you ever thought about the person who collects your refuse and recycling and what their daily role involves? 

This Recycle Week, we’re looking at the real people who deliver the service to households across the County Borough. Streetcare Recycling Operative/Driver Steven Blake is showing residents his job and how we can all help to improve recycling rates. 

Steven, from Rhondda, started with the Council over 16 years ago, initially based at Ty Amgen as a HGV driver/loader, responsible for collecting items from the Community Recycling Centres and later taking on his current role as a Recycling Driver. Both roles have allowed Steven to see both sides of recycling, from sorting/collecting in the centres to collecting at the kerbside. 

Steven’s day starts at 5.30am as he prepares to head to the depot by 6.50am. When he arrives at the depot, he heads to his locker to get his keys and carries out the daily inspection of the recycling lorry to check the oil, tyres, etc. 

Shortly after, Steven and his team head out to tackle the round for that day.

Every day the team travels across the County Borough to collect all the recyclable waste, including food and nappies, and garden waste. 

One of the biggest issues Steven faces is cross-contamination of recycling, which results in many items being sent to landfills. Steven has discovered some shocking things in recycling bags, including human faeces and food waste mixed into the dry recycling clear bags. All of these items would contaminate the recyclables and result in the items being landfilled.

A question for the council was, What percentage of collected recycling is considered unrecyclable due to contamination, as a result of using the current waste recycling vehicle with a process of compacting and compressing the recycling together, in comparison to the alternative use of a vehicle with separate compartments?

Answer During the period Apr-22 to Mar-23, 81% of dry mixed recycling collected was recovered. The residual quantity will include materials that cannot be recycled as well as contaminated recyclable materials. The precise quantities affected by contamination is not recorded.

Another big issue that Steven faces daily is cars parked at junctions or blocking access to the streets, causing delays in collections or could result in an accident. And it’s not just refuse vehicles that have a difficult time, it also applies to fire engines and ambulances! 

AberdareOnline has complained to RCTC Highways Department about vehicles parked near road junctions because residents have complained on social media but the council and local police will do nothing to stop this.

Did you know that from April 2022 – March 2023, RCT residents recycled over 56,000 tonnes? The bad news is that over 3400 additional tonnes had to be thrown away due to contamination! 

At around 11.30am, the team head to the base to unload the recycling ready for sorting.

After a quick lunch break, the team heads back out to continue the collections. The average recycling operative can walk up to 40,000 steps daily (16 miles) during kerbside collections!     

At 2.45pm, Steven and the team head back to the depot to end their shift. 


Steven enjoys his role and is grateful to have a good team, Steven explains: 

“I like meeting people and making a difference. I take pride in my role, and I’m lucky to work with some good people. It’s great as most people really appreciate what we’re doing. During the Covid outbreak, the response from people was just amazing. 

“I make sure my family recycles as I can see what happens to the items when you don’t. One of my biggest pet hates is fly-tipping! When I see mattresses or wood just left at the side of the road, it winds me up as these can be taken to a recycling centre for free! 

“I care about the environment and hope that more and more residents will start recycling. We all have to do it for the sake of future generations. It is the best job I’ve had so far; the team is so friendly, and I’d recommend this job to anyone!” 

Councillor Ann CrimmingsCabinet Member for Environment and Leisure, said: 

“The teams do a fantastic job across the County Borough every day, and combined with the huge efforts of RCT residents, it’s no wonder we’re taking great strides forward to hit our recycling targets. 

“However, this Recycle Week, we all need to look at what we’re placing into our clear bags. Simple changes like ensuring items are rinsed in leftover dishwater before recycling will help reduce contamination.

“Recycling is a key priority for the Council and will play a pivotal role in helping the Council achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. 

We are taking MIGHTY actions to recycle and fight against climate change. In July this year black bag and wheeled bin collections were changed to three-weekly in a bid to increase recycling rates and reduce carbon emissions! So far the early recycling rates for dry and food are all on the up and overall black bag waste is going down – which means that residents are taking up the challenge ‘Let’s UP Our Recycling GAME’ and ‘Let’s Hit the TARGET! If we all continue our MIGHTY efforts, then RCT is back on the winning recycling track!  

“The Council also introduced sustainable and reusable green sacks for green waste collections in November 2021 and this has helped the Council to reduce its overall plastic usage by millions of clear bags annually. These changes to the green waste collection service and the forthcoming changes to a bookable service for the Winter Green Collections are helping to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint and bring us closer to hitting the Welsh Government recycling target of 70% by 2024/25.

“Our changes locally will help make a difference globally.”

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council provides a FREE general, food, nappy and green recycling collection service to over 110,000 properties.

In addition to the Council’s kerbside recycling services, the Council also boasts many dedicated Community Recycling Centres.

Don’t forget to sort out your recycling into paper, cardboard, glass, metal etc before you visit the centres as they will no longer accept bags of mixed recycling.

These are based in the following locations across the County Borough: 

  • Ty Amgen, Llwydcoed CF44 0BX 
  • Cymmer Road, Dinas CF39 9BL
  • Treherbert Industrial Estate, CF42 5HZ
  • North Road, Ferndale CF43 4RS 
  • Treforest Industrial Estate CF37 5TT 
  • Llantrisant 100% Recycling Centre CF72 8YT 

All of these facilities will cater for all recycling needs, including white goods, cardboard, clothing, plastics, light fittings, wood, glass, metal, engine oil, fluorescent tubes, plasterboards, old toys, paint, tyres, old tv’s, batteries and lots more, including Christmas trees. 

All centres are manned and the attendants are happy to advise residents on recycling and assist them in disposing of their household material. 

 ALL Community Recycling Centres are open 7 days a week, from 8am-7.30pm (summer opening hours) and allow small vans and trailers alongside cars to dispose of items. A number of strict guidelines are in place for site visitors and these are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future – more details are available at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/CRCsRules

In addition to the Community Recycling Centres, there are THREE re-use shops based in each area of Rhondda, Cynon and Taf – with the recent addition of the Shed shop in Aberdare town centre. The three re-use shops ‘The Shed’ are NOW open for donations and browsing. 

Residents are reminded that they can put out an unlimited number of clear recycling bags.

For more details and tips on recycling in RCT, visit www.rctcbc.gov.uk/recycling or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Team @ AberdareOnline

Team @ AberdareOnline

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