Thanks to the HGV driver shortage, many refuse collectors are quitting to earn up to £30,000 more driving lorries. But what does this mean for our streets, as the rubbish and recycling piles ever higher?
Andy Gee doesn’t mind when people call him a bin man, but it depends on their tone. “If they say you’re just a bin man,” he says, sitting in the driver’s seat of his recycling lorry, as we wind through Torquay, Devon, at the tail end of the tourist season, “then it’s like, hang on a minute. I’m just a person getting rid of your rubbish! But to be described as a bin man – at the end of the day, I looked at bin men as bin men when I was a kid.”
On the pavements, overflowing boxes of recycling stand to attention, waiting for collections that have become less frequent in recent months. Gee is contracted to work a 40-hour week, but lately he has been clocking up 55 hours, with paid overtime. “I personally will do every hour I can to help people catch up,” he says. Today, Gee plans to finish his round and then pick up two weeks’ worth of uncollected recycling on someone else’s route.