21 October 2021

A day in the life of a food waste recovery team member

Olleco is helping the food and hospitality industry tackle the climate emergency by supplying, collecting and processing their organic waste streams to create renewable energy sources. Our drivers around the country are working hard to maintain excellent services in challenging times with driver shortages and rising fuel prices. We spoke with Wayne, one of our drivers from the north east, to give you some insights into what it’s like working on the environmental front line, tackling the climate emergency head-on. 

Could you talk us through a typical day for you at Olleco?

I drive for the food waste recovery team. I collect food waste from sites across the North West of England. We pick up from every sort of place - from large supermarkets to small village pubs and everything in between. I’ve been at Olleco for nearly four years now. It usually starts pretty early. I get up at 4am to go to the depot to start my shift. I’ll then go to all the customers on the route for the day. I’ll usually drop in to say hello to each customer and check there aren’t any issues - things like, say, a broken wheel on a bin. I’ll then empty their food waste bins and fit them with new liners. The bins are quite heavy but they’re easy to handle once you’ve got the technique. 

Wayne Smith

Wayne at the beginning of his day. 

Once the vehicle is full - usually around six or seven tonnes of food waste - I take it to one of our processing plants where it gets tipped and prepared for processing in their anaerobic digester. They shred it and remove any packaging and liners and I hose down the vehicle. After that, I’ll go back to the depot and check the next day’s routes and whether there are any new calls to include. I’m usually done by 3pm when I head for home.

And how do you like it?

It’s great. I love driving and I cover a fantastic area - passing through some really lovely countryside including the Lake District. I collect from a spot on Windermere and I am often there early in the morning as the sun is rising. It’s stunning.

Doing more or less the same routes, every week, you get to know folk and they’re really friendly. It’s not like those driving jobs where you just go from A to B. With this job, you go all over the place but most nights you’re back in your own bed. 

And because you’re always getting in and out of the cab, collecting the food waste bins, it keeps you fit and active. You might do 35 collections in a day - sometimes as many as 10 bins at the big supermarkets - so you build up quite a sweat. 

I quite enjoy the challenge of making the routes as efficient as possible. Olleco recently introduced some new software to calculate the most fuel-efficient route and I was pleasantly surprised how close I already was to the computer’s selection. Of course, the computer isn’t always right and it is really satisfying when you can use your wits to find a way around roadworks, bad traffic and congestion.

Do your friends and family, or even customers, realise the significance of what you do?

Actually, people are getting a lot more interested in what we do with the food waste, especially with the rises in gas and electricity prices. Some of the customers do talk about it and it’s great to be able to tell them how we’re helping to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and making renewable energy and organic fertiliser. My daughter actually did a presentation on my job at her school. It was quite a challenge for her to stand up and deliver a talk to the whole school but I was really proud of her. It does make you aware that people are waking up to all the things we have to do to protect the planet and it’s good to feel that you are playing a part in that.


Are there any aspects of the job that you find a challenge?

It takes a while to get used to the smell, but you do in the end, and we keep the bins and the vehicles very clean. I do always have a shower after I’ve been working. I suppose the traffic can be quite stressful - you never like to be late for a collection or to have to reschedule. I really take it to heart if I can’t get things done on time. Breakdowns can be a real pain but, fortunately, they don’t happen very often.

It is quite fast-paced, so, I suppose some people might find that doesn’t suit them but I don’t mind that.

To be honest, it’s a pretty good job if you like driving like I do. The pay is good and Olleco do take care of you. Early on, I had a cancer scare and they really looked after me even though I wasn’t on a permanent contract at that stage. The HR team were brilliant. It makes you want to be loyal, when a company treats you with respect.

Do you have a message you’d like to share?

We all love food but we need a healthy planet to enjoy it on. Make sure any food that can’t be eaten gets collected so we can make renewable electricity, biogas and fertiliser. Then it’s not going to waste.

Want to join our team? 

You can view our driver vacancies on our careers website

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