Magazine article Management Today

MT: The Sharp End - My Bin-End Opportunity

Magazine article Management Today

MT: The Sharp End - My Bin-End Opportunity

Article excerpt

In a wheelie-shunting day, Rhymer Rigby gets to like the sound of breaking glass.

For this Sharp End, I was going to be a bin man for a day, but throwing out is going out of fashion. So MT's team of fixers and strategisers put me onto Biffa, a waste-management company. Far more fashionable, we decided, to do a recycling round. After all, the green-box collector is the dustman of our times.

Biffa collects all sorts of recyclables, but I was to do mixed glass So, bright and early at 7am (all these jobs seem to start the wrong side of 9am), I showed up at Biffa's south Hertfordshire depot. I sat through the health and safety video (presented by a strangely entertaining former world champion weight-lifter), scored a creditable 80% on the post-vid quiz and was given a certificate. Then I met my driver, Michael Ciolkowski, and it was time to head out.

South Herts is an odd mix of picture-postcard villages that remind you why we have green belts - and grim suburban sprawl, which does the same. The cuter bits are threaded with hilly, tree-overhung lanes: not good places to drive an enormous recycling lorry. Nonetheless, Michael was skilful and incredibly courteous. In fact, I've never seen such a polite driver of a commercial vehicle. He braked for old ladies, gave way to others and thanked everyone. If only all drivers were like him. Sadly, the impatience and rudeness of many other road-users stood as a shaming contrast. As a native Hertfordshireman, I can only say road manners have deteriorated since I left.

Still, the work was easy enough. Nearly all glass collections were from pubs and bars, which ranged from a swanky golf club to places that looked like they had Sky Sports for the Cage Fighting channel. We'd drag the proprietary bins to the lorry and latch them onto a hoist, which hauled them up, dumping their contents with a deafening staccato of broken bottles. We'd then replace the bins. Do it once and you've done it 100 times.

This is not to say it was boring. I found the repetition soothing. It was also, all things considered, an impressively efficient and slick process. Bin data was even periodically entered onto an in-cab PDA, which communicated with Biffa's servers to generate still greater efficiencies. …

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