In recent times, factors such as Brexit and the so-called ‘pingdemic’ have contributed to an “unprecedented” national shortage of drivers, causing delays and cancellations to collections around the country.
The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP), which manages waste and recycling services for all local authorities in Somerset, says the situation is “more acute” in the county due to its many distribution hubs (see letsrecycle.com story).
Garden waste collections in Somerset have been suspended for six weeks from 2 August so staff can be redeployed to support residual waste and recycling collections.
The SWP hopes the £1,000 bonus, conditional on drivers successfully passing a probationary period with associated performance standards, will encourage more to join and ease the crisis.
Mickey Green, the SWP’s managing director, said: “The welcome bonus comes on top of a retention bonus for drivers, a weekly performance bonus for all staff, and considerable efforts to recruit, retrain and retain drivers.
“These measures will take time to have an impact, and we apologise to residents of Somerset for the ongoing service disruption.”
Drivers and loaders
The SWP says Somerset needs more than 25 new full-time permanent LGV driver and loaders for local work collecting recycling. In the short-term it is using more agency staff.
“Working in recycling keeps you fit and helps the environment”
To address the shortages, the SWP says Suez is funding training for its recycling loaders to become LGV drivers, with the latest 23 candidates already going through an intensive course.
Encouraging others to apply, Suez contract director Matt Canning said: “Working in recycling keeps you fit and helps the environment. For those who want to develop their careers, there is plenty of scope to get on, such as the loader-to-driver courses.
“Our LGV drivers are working in Somerset, starting early but finishing early, with no overnight stays away from home. Our crews are part of the local community, providing an essential service in all weathers. It’s rewarding work.”
The SWP manages a network of recycling centres and community recycling sites throughout Somerset, alongside kerbside collections of recycling and residual waste.
In the 2019/20 financial year the SWP had a household waste recycling rate of 52.9%.
Suez officially took over a £210 million collections contract for the SWP in March 2020. The waste management company was named the preferred bidder for the contract in May 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The SWP carries out more than 400,000 kerbside collections every week. It launched a new waste service dubbed Recycle More in October 2020, which saw the gradual introduction of three-weekly residual collections across the county, as well as a separate kerbside collection for pots, tubs and trays (PTT), small electrical equipment and household batteries (see letsrecycle.com story).