The National Refuse Championships return to Weston-super-Mare in June, the second gathering after being revived from an earlier life as the World Refuse Championships in 1995 in Worthing. The event raises funds for The Alzheimer’s Society and is the brainchild of Spencer Law, managing director of Refuse Vehicle Solutions (RVS), who has wanted to recreate the event for years.
“I remember the original event, which was great fun and a superb way to raise money for a good cause,” he says. “It’s important to recognise the hard work of the people who collect our rubbish and an opportunity for them to show how good they are.
“The formula of the event seems to work well; it’s highly entertaining and family friendly. Operators are attracted to the event because it gives them the opportunity to involve their crews and network, while exhibitors have a captive market audience to showcase their products. I hope we can establish the National Refuse Championships as a major annual event on the waste management calendar.”
In essence, teams of refuse vehicle drivers and loaders from across the UK gather to compete in a series of races along the beach front. It is a real test of skill, stamina and strength.
Each team has five participants: one driver and four loaders, who load large wheelie bins with stones and push them 50m to empty into an awaiting refuse collection vehicle (RCV). The driver then moves the truck 50m further and the process is repeated until the truck reaches the finish line.
It is a two-day event with networking, seminars and an exhibition during the day on Friday 15 June followed by a fundraising drinks reception at the Winter Gardens in the evening, sponsored by Dennis Eagle. The races take place from 10am to 5.30pm on the Saturday, after which a party is held for participants in a marquee on the Beach Lawns, with live music and a fish and chip supper. The headline sponsor is contract hire, asset finance and fleet management company Indelease.
Last year an Aylesbury Vale District Council team was crowned Refuse Vehicle Champions 2017, and this year it is defending its title with two teams, one of which is all-female.
David Clark, the council’s transport manager, said: “Since winning the event last year, there has been so much positivity across the crews and council departments, which is fantastic. It has been great for team-building. Our female crew members are keen to show that they can beat the men.
“It was an excellent opportunity for people to get to know each other outside of work. When we returned after winning the event, we were famous for a while. People were congratulating us, we were interviewed by the regional TV news and we received emails from staff, councillors and members of the public. It has been great for morale and motivation.”
Aylesbury Vale was surprised at the impact of winning the event and the success features in its current recruitment campaign. The slogan ‘Recruiting Now! Join Our Champion Collection Crew – Winners of the 2017 National Refuse Championships’ is being advertised on the side of some of the council’s new RCVs.
Law said he was surprised by how many people came along to support the teams last year. “There were more than 2,500 family and friends of the teams and hundreds of members of the public on top of that. There was such camaraderie among the competitors and spectators. They all supported and cheered for each other,and the atmosphere was fantastic. Not bad for our first time.”
“Last year’s event was an excellent opportunity for people to get to know each other outside of work.”
He believes the return of the championships was overdue: “Traditionally, there has always been a waste management event in the southwest, and the loss of the CIWM & PAWRS events has left a gap. Weston-super-Mare is a perfect location and we are well underway with preparations for this year’s event. We hope to raise even more money for The Alzheimer’s Society.”
Around 30 crews, from private waste companies and local authorities across the UK, have signed up while more are being sought. Teams so far include Biffa, Amey, Grundon, Cawleys, FCS Cleaning, Swindon County Council, Gullivers Truck Hire, Kier, Devon Contract Waste, Oxford City Council, Aberdeen City Council, Weir Waste, Vehicle Weighing Solutions Ltd, Simply Waste, Cartskips, ASL and Pirtek.