After all the snow, the story of the St Albans clean up
ALONGSIDE the weather and the state of the roads, one of the most popular things to complain about is rubbish collections. Forget over-filling recycling boxes and muddling green and black wheelie bin weeks up; when the cold weather hits, the biggest grum
ALONGSIDE the weather and the state of the roads, one of the most popular things to complain about is rubbish collections.
Forget over-filling recycling boxes and muddling green and black wheelie bin weeks up; when the cold weather hits, the biggest grumble of them all is how long it takes the binmen to take our rubbish away.
But we all know what a struggle it is to get to work when there is snow on the roads, so is it really reasonable to expect a 26-ton lorry to navigate its way through a frost-bitten St Albans as per usual?
Following an invitation from assistant manager at MRS Environmental Services Mark Southgate, I decided to check the situation out first hand by joining a refuse crew out on the beat last week.
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MRS employs 75 waste collectors (mainly men, although I did manage to source a "picking belt" Pam back at the Ronsons Way recycling depot) and I spent my Friday afternoon with three of the longest-serving - John, Neville and Peter - who together have cranked up over 70 years of service in the industry.
I joined the team on Sandridge Road and began quizzing John, a binman of 39 years, about how the bad weather had affected their collections.
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Aside from skidding refuse trucks and frozen solid recycling boxes, he said the biggest pain of all was trying to drag bulging wheelie bins across slippy pavements.
He said: "It was much easier with the black sacks back in the day but these new-fangled wheelie bins skate all over the place."
John, Neville and Peter have all taken a tumble or two on the icy roads and one of their co-workers is currently recovering from a badly broken leg following a slip-up in December.
No wonder they are nervous about driving down the un-gritted side roads of St Albans (it is up to the driver whether he goes down them or not) and Mark told me he has had many sleepless nights worrying about his drivers since the snow struck.
MRS has lost four days this month due to the snow and they are desperately trying to pick up the slack now. "Everything should be cleared by Thursday (January 21)", Mark promised, "and we hope that people can be patient until then".
Unfortunately, it is the binmen who bear the brunt of people's frustration and John, who usually gets on well with the residents he has been serving for decades, said that, like the weather, people were getting frostier as the days passed.
He said: "Sure, I understand that people want to get rid of their rubbish but we can't be blamed for the weather!"
Christmas tips have been steadily getting worse each year - "Maybe it's a sign of the times," John mused - and it looks as if they will be at an all-time low this year.
That said, we were stopped by a couple of residents who wished us a Happy New Year, thanked the guys for a good service and handed them a fiver.
After we had completed the Sandridge Road collection, Mark took me out to some of the worst affected areas of the district to highlight how difficult it had been for them.
Even in a four by four Mark, an ex-refuse truck driver, had trouble navigating the winding Sandridgebury Lane because of the black ice spots on the road and I could scarcely believe that a large refuse truck had been down here the day before.
No wonder MRS has had three complaints this month from motorists whose vehicles have been scraped by wobbling refuse vehicles.
And the problems do not stop with the collections - back at the depot an agitated worker flagged us down to tell Mark that the conveyor belt used to sort out all the recyclables has broken down because it was blocked with snow.
Yet another problem for Mark "bring-on-Spring" Southgate, who hasn't had a lie-in past 5am since November.
Yes, we are one of many families in the St Albans district who still have remnants of Christmas rubbish hanging around but after my afternoon out with the frozen binmen I could not help but sympathise with their cause.
Take my word for it - nobody dreads the snow more than they do!