More women needed in waste industry

Pictured (left to right): Nikki Mills recycling education officer, Elaine Easton contract manager, L

Pictured (left to right): Nikki Mills recycling education officer, Elaine Easton contract manager, Liz Osborne street cleansing operative, Marian Garrat street cleansing operative, Tina Watkins recycling loader and Karen Neaves administrator - Credit: Archant

A waste manager is calling on more women to join the waste industry.

Veolia contract manager Elaine Easton has a team of around 120 staff members and a significant proportion of them are male with only 11 ladies.

She said she would like to see more women opting to try roles in the waste industry.

Ms Easton said: “I would recommend this industry to anyone. You’ve got to love being outdoors and enjoy meeting the public, but it is very satisfying at the end of each day to see the difference you make to the communities in which we all live and work.”

Marian Garratt, who is a street cleansing operative, first joined the Veolia team in response to a dare from a friend that already worked for the organisation.

She had been working in a factory, doing light industrial work but when that ended, she decided to apply for a post loading recycling.

Having previously worked for the postal service, another outdoor-based role appealed and she hasn’t looked back.

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Ms Garratt has now been with Veolia for 11 years, the last five of which have been in the street cleansing team pushing a cart around Hertfordshire towns.

When asked how her family and friends feel about her choice of career, Marian said “they think I’m a super hero”.

Liz Osborne, who is a street cleansing operative, mainly works in Hitchin and has been with the organisation for 16 years.

She said: “I meet plenty of people each day. The shop keepers and market traders all know me.”

When asked if working in waste is physically challenging, Elaine acknowledged that some of the roles are – particularly those on vehicles collecting household waste like the post held by a recycling loader.

Tina Watkins, who is a recycling loader, actively sought out her role when she returned from travelling as she knew she wanted to be outdoors doing something manual.

She said she has been asked many times by other women about job opportunities in the industry and they often worry about being fit enough or potentially of having to deal with negative ‘banter’ from male colleagues.

She said: “At the start everyone is a bit slow but you get quicker as you get fitter and as you learn the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, the same applies.”

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