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Stan climbs down from his refuse truck for the last time

Stan climbs down from his refuse truck for the last time

It’s bin a wheelie great job with a truck-load of laughs

Stan Campbell is leaving his life behind the wheel of a wheelie bin truck this month proud of Timaru District’s achievements in the 3-2-1-ZERO three-bin kerbside waste management system that has been a country leader in recycling, composting and reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill. – PHOTOGRAPH: GRAEME STILWELL.


Shadowy, nightshirt-clad figures stealing their way across pre-dawn, frosty city streets – he’s seen them all.

Bare-foot and brave, their toes stung by ice and small stones, they try to outwit the bin man, sheepishly tippy-toeing a late wheelie bin from the right side of the road to the wrong, rattling and rumbling their neighbours awake.

And when the dazzling lights from the refuse truck pick out a shivering form, they freeze, nabbed, like a possum caught in the headlights.

It’s a welcome break that affords a grin and relief from the heavy concentration that kerbside collection truck drivers need as they wind their way through Timaru’s streets on their early morning missions.

Stan Campbell’s has been doing the south Timaru run since the introduction of Otto bins by the Timaru District Council in 1991. Now, after 20 years, the former truck and bus mechanic is retiring, recycling himself, as he puts it.

After 28 years with NZR Road Services, he first climbed into his Fulton Hogan refuse truck cab on July 1, 1991, at the start of the new wheelie bin contract for rubbish collection with the council. On July 1, 2006, he transferred to a new 3-2-1-ZERO kerbside collection truck.

He leaves his life on the road this month proud of the district’s achievements in the 3-2-1-ZERO three-bin kerbside waste management system that has been a country leader in recycling, composting and reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill.

Stan has had a lot to do with that, making sure that his bins on both the red run and the green run were completely empty before he set them back down on the footpath, ensuring through his cab-mounted television monitor that their contents were correct, and trying to ensure he not disturb the neighbours more than his flashing light and revving engine required.

Over the years Stan has been able to temperature-map urban Timaru. He knows where the cold streets and cold houses are by the ash in the red bin – and he knows the ash is there by the clouds of it swirling around his truck when the bin is emptied.

And he’s had a few run-ins too.

“One guy filled his green bin to the top with bottles. When I told him it would not be emptied because bottles go in the yellow recycling bin, he let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of me,” Stan said.

There have been some tricks too, he said. Residents can get quite innovative about ways to get around the system – they think.

“A favourite is the wad approach. I see green bins with a wad of green matter in the bottom, a wad in the top, and sandwiched between – well, all sorts.

“They forget I’ve got a camera, and it sees the entire contents of bins.”

There is a “three strikes and you’re out” approach to bin contents. Contaminated bins would not be emptied and earned a sticker. Contaminated again and they got another sticker. Contaminated with the wrong material a third time and they would not be collected in future.

“We know where the problem bins are.”

He said he often saw people run out and collect their just-emptied bins, rush back inside, refill them, and scoot them across the other side of the road for the return collection.

“Then they hide behind a bush ready to collect it again.

“I give them a wee toot.” The bin was left unemptied.

He said Christmas time was great.

“We often get little treats left for us. It’s a pleasure to work in this city.”

Pet hates? Stan has a couple.

One is when bins are left behind parked cars.

“The problem is that our bin grabbers are behind and to the left of the cab. When we pull alongside a vehicle, especially a van, we can’t see the bin. Please put bins in front of vehicles so we have a clear view.”

Stan also has a reminder for residents with overhanging trees or garage eves.

“We can grab the bin, but remember, we have to lift it high. With obstacles above the bins that becomes difficult. Please put bins where there is clear space overhead.”

So how will a man who never used an alarm clock in his 21 years of 4.30am starts manage to sleep past the appointed hour during his retirement.

“The body clock will just need to reset. I’m sure it will – in time, as long as the new drivers go about their job quietly, like me.”


© Scoop Media

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