St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Meet the team: The Recycling team

the recycling team out on collection


Comprised of Sam (Waste & Recycling Manager), Marc, Stuart, Rebecca, David and Chris

What is your role at St Nicks?

We collect recycling, we are contracted by City of York Council to collect the kerbside, residential recycling from the hard to reach areas of the city. We do it on load bearing tricycles and small fully electric vehicles. Alongside this we also run our own commercial recycling service collecting from tiny one person shops all the way up to national chains, museums and events.

What does a typical day involve?

First thing we do every morning is check the schedule for the day and plan whose doing which round and what vehicles we might need. Our residential service is fixed so we’ll collect from the same streets on the same day each week. What can change is the order we collect from the streets; if we know there’s building works or road closures for example we’ll swap things around so we don’t waste too much time sat in traffic. We also will swap things around depending on which businesses have booked collections. A lot of our business recycling customers are on an ad hoc basis, so they contact us as and when they need a pick up.  As we check the schedule we’ll also check what containers, leafletting and letters might need to be distributed. So if needed we’ll get those items out at the same time.

photo of the electric van Doris filled with recycling

Doris the electric van


Depending on the day and how busy the rounds are determines which vehicles we’ll use. Doris and Edith (our electric vehicles) don’t get a day off but the trikes alternate, on a Wednesday (our heaviest day) we’ll have both trikes and both vehicles.

Then it’s time to get our personal protective equipment (PPE) on,  so that’s always gloves and steel toe boots but if the weather is fair we’ll be in high visibility t shirts and jumpers, if it’s wet or cold we’ll probably be in high visibility jackets and waterproof over trousers.

After that we’ll head out onto the streets to start the collection. We hand sort at the kerbside for both our residential and business customers so we can ensure we are only taking away the materials we can guarantee will be recycled. It also makes unloading back at St Nicks easier. The team are in constant contact throughout the day so they can try and coordinate getting back to unload at the same time. It makes it easier for the heavier materials!

Once the vehicles are full we’ll head back to unload, again by hand. So everything is carried from the vehicles and emptied into our skips ready for collection, it’s a good workout, especially if you’ve already been triking! We do have a winch to unload paper, but it’s hand operated rather than electric. Most days are two run days so the vehicles will all go out multiple times.

In the afternoons we’ll try and get maintenance done on the vehicles, keep the recycling site tidy and turn the compost heaps.

We also run Terracycle drop in sessions where people can bring the items that can’t typically be recycled to us to be recycled (full details here). Finally we also keep busy on projects such as our Precious Plastic York, RSA Neighbourly Zero Waste York work with businesses, and education works with schools, residents and groups around York. There’s a lot more to it than just collecting recycling!

photo of sparkie our electric trike with cover

Sparkie our latest electric trike


What’s your favourite part of the job?

photo of recycling member Chris out on collection


Rebecca: Zooming down a hill on the trike

Marc: Getting to work outside with a great (yet small) team of hard working people who are always up for a laugh.

Chris: Triking down steep hills.

Stuart: Chatting to our customers and meeting new people

Sam: No two days are ever the same and working with a fantastic team of really dedicated and talented people; they aren’t “just” bin men!

David: When we surprise people with how much we can fit onto our seemingly pretty compact vehicles, and how much trikes and electric vehicles can achieve.

What’s your least favourite part of the job?

David: Cold, wet days when your hands just won’t warm up.

Rebecca: When I have to crawl up a hill on a fully loaded trike – though there is a great sense of accomplishment afterwards! (don’t let anyone try and tell you there are no hills in York!)

Sam: my inability to regulate my own body temperature! I do not like being cold, so I’m usually wearing my thermals from September to March which means that I overheat when I do a long trike run, or when unloading the vehicles so that I freeze again later when I have to go back out for the second run…

Stuart: My colleagues would say paperwork…

Chris: Sorting completely mixed bags and boxes; i.e. shredded layers of paper, tin, glass, plastic, card, all intermingled. Our gloves are thick so you lose dexterity and it takes a long time.

Marc: Having to sort through unsanitary things that should never have been put in a recycling box.

recycling staff member Marc sat on the Doris the van


How do you connect to nature?

Rebecca: Sitting outside under a tartan blanket with a cup of tea and binoculars watching birds, trekking through trees and up boulders as well as swimming in the sea.

Marc: Filling my house with plants, I also enjoy hiking and camping

David: I feel really connected to nature when I turn the compost at St Nicks, especially when the local robin comes to check out what’s going on. I also like walking or cycling out in the countryside when I get chance.

photograph of David on the trike


Sam: Being outside! I love kayaking, swimming, snorkelling, walking and volunteering at my local wildlife sanctuary.

Stuart: I need to make more time for this, I either don’t have the time or I don’t have the energy!

Chris: Sitting in my garden by pond with gin and tonic watching fish and birds.

Stuart stood with his thumbs up on the frozen pond


Have the team inspired you to start recycling more? Why not sign up to the Terracycle mailing list here. We also share useful tips on how to recycle better on the St Nicks and Zero Waste facebook page as well as our quarterly newsletters. We cannot wait to share more news about the Precious Plastic York project later on in the year too!

11 February 2022 | Categories: Inspiration, Interview, Waste and recycling