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RECYCLE MORE: Driver shortages will not stop roll-out

RECYCLE MORE: Driver shortages will not stop roll-out

Image: LDRS

The roll-out of Recycle More will not be postponed or disrupted as a result of driver shortages, Somerset waste bosses have promised.

The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) is poised to begin phase two of its roll-out at the end of June, with 76,653 South Somerset households set to see their bin collections drastically change.

The SWP’s waste contractor Suez has struggled to recruit and retain drivers – part of a national problem – which has resulted in copious collections being missed over the last few weeks.

But waste bosses have said they will not pause the roll-out and are working hard to address the shortage.

In a letter circulated to local authority partners on June 11, the SWP admitted it had been “a challenging couple of weeks”, adding that its crews had been “under prolonged pressure for most than a year”.

They added: “Although collections are not currently where we would like them to be at the moment and we are working hard to recover this, the huge efforts of our hard-working front-line staff over the last year remains incredible and something for which we are hugely grateful to them.”

Recycle More was launched in the Mendip area in October 2020, with more items being recycled at the kerbside and refuse collections moving from fortnightly to once every three weeks.

The SWP has promised that the driver shortage would not stop phase two – covering the whole of South Somerset – from going ahead as planned.

A spokesman said: “There will be no impact on the Recycle More roll-out. The next phase starts in South Somerset on June 28.”

Papers published before a meeting of the SWP joint scrutiny panel on Wednesday (June 23) indicate the SWP has already begun work to upgrade its Walford Cross depot near Taunton ahead of phase three of the roll-out, which will begin on November 1.

Phase three will cover 55,207 households in the former Taunton Deane area, while Sedgemoor and the former West Somerset area won’t begin to receive the service until February 28, 2022 at the earliest.

To combat the driver shortages, any collections missed on Friday (June 18) will be collected the following Friday (June 25).

A spokesman said: “Crews are working flat-out to complete delayed collections despite an acute driver shortage.

“Moving Friday’s missed recycling to next week will help get collections
back on track.

“We apologise for the disruption and are working hard with its contractor Suez to address the problems. However, there is no quick fix and continued disruption is likely in the near-future.”

The HGV driver shortage – estimated at 70,000 drivers nationwide – has been worsened by a number of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic (which affected training and testing), EU drivers leaving the UK after Brexit, and rising demand from the reopening of non-essential retail.

The areas expected to be affected by missed collections include Bridgwater, Brompton Ralph, Bruton, Castle Cary, Cheddon Fitzpaine, East Quantoxhead, Holford, Kilve, Norton Fitzwarren, Stogursey, Stringston, Taunton and Wincanton.

The SWP is urging all qualified drivers – including anyone who recently retired to apply for vacancies at its bases in Bridgwater, Evercreech, Taunton, Williton and Yeovil.

For more information, visit www.careers.suez.co.uk/vacancies.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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