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The chief exec, the rubbish sacks, and the donkeys

​​​​​​​Recently our Chief Executive went on a refuse round. Not your usual back to the floor exercise, there was a particular issue to solve, and donkeys...lots of donkeys.

Chief executive and refuse truck

Bob Jackson tells us about the day:  

After nearly 40 years' local government service I recently had, for the first time, the opportunity to work as a loader for a day with our refuse collection service.

Refuse is a council's most visible public service, and an everyday part of life in the New Forest.  But refuse being collected is something most of us just take for granted; it just happens.  

My main reason for going out with the team on the particular round I did, Round 9, between Lymington and Buckler's Hard, was that the team were having issues with the collection of refuse on the open forest.  The animals, particularly donkeys, would rip apart the refuse sacks in minutes. I wanted to understand what we could do to solve this issue. And the best way was to see it for myself.  

A week before I went out with the truck, I had the training to show me the safe and correct way to do things, and I was provided with all the correct clothing - safety boots, protective trousers, and gloves.  Kitted out in my head-to-toe yellow high vis, I was ready to give it a go and arrived one July Monday morning at our Lymington depot at 5.45am (I'll admit, an unusually early hour for me).   

As I walked into the office to meet up with my driver, I noticed some nervous glances from staff. I guess they were wondering what the Chief Executive was up to. I myself was apprehensive, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for.  

We headed out to the truck (we have 37 of them) and it was a beautiful morning in the New Forest; the sun was shining and the temperature was good, but thankfully lower than the searing heat we had enjoyed the previous week. 

During our round, one thing that struck me was how much knowledge the team have about not only the roads and tracks of the New Forest, but the detail of exactly where rubbish will be put. 

My place in the cab was in the middle seat, next to the driver - a seat I must have climbed in and out of hundreds of times during the round.  Sitting in the truck you are high up, so you can see a lot more than usual.  There's no denying that there is a pungent smell, but the noise isn't as you'd expect - the trucks are actually quite quiet and a smooth ride. 

On this round there are two trucks - one for black sacks, and one for the clear recycling sacks.  I learnt that, to avoid sending two trucks down the same street, one of the truck's crews will collect all the bags, clear and black.  They then meet up with the other truck at an agreed place and hand over the bags.  This means the rounds are more efficient.    

As well as now understanding the issues with the livestock and the rubbish sacks, going on a refuse round included the more unusual experience of learning that the ingenuity of seagulls means that chicken carcasses will sometimes fall from the sky onto the vehicle cabin.  I also learnt pretty quickly that if you don't get out of the way of the truck's compressor when collecting from near a local strawberry farm you will get sprayed with fruit juice.  

My round finished at 12.45pm, at least half an hour later than normal.  I was totally exhausted. And no wonder; on average, one of our refuse workers will cover between 10 and 18 miles on foot every day.  

This was an experience I will never forget, and now more than ever I realise what important and necessary work the refuse teams do in keeping our special place of the New Forest so special. They work hard and deal with some unpleasant things, and take pride in a job well done.  

And the issue with rubbish and the donkeys that prompted my 'day out'? We now have a system in place working well where the rubbish is kept the right side of the cattle grid until our guys collect it.  Sorry donkeys.  

August 2017.  

Inside the cattle grid leaflet

Updated: 20 Sep 2017
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