Households are being warned about a shortage of bin collections at Christmas as drivers are reportedly leaving their jobs to increase their salary by as much as 60 per cent elsewhere.
Bin lorry drivers - who earn on average around £25,000 a year - are said to be receiving pay deals worth as much as £40,000 to switch to roles in supermarkets, food hauliers or online retailers.
Residents of councils in London, Devon, Surrey and Peterborough have already reported collections being suspended or delayed. There have also been complaints about overflowing bins and missed rounds in areas affected by staff shortages.
The news comes amid Britain’s ongoing HGV driver shortage, which has seen the government issue 5,000 foreign lorry drivers with emergency visas to come to the UK – providing what the Department for Transport (DfT) refers to as “short-term relief” for the haulage industry in the run-up to the busy festive period.
With waste volumes typically rising by around 30 per cent in the festive season, though, the industry has warned something desperately needs to be done.
Environmental Services Association executive director Jacob Hayler said there is currently a 15 per cent vacancy rate for drivers working for waste contractors.
The situation is even worse in some areas, with council leaders in Devon warning there were vacancy rates of up to 20 per cent for bin lorry drivers in their area.
Mr Hayler told The Guardian that HGV drivers needed to be included among the list of occupations facing a shortage to avoid a “Christmas crisis”.
Meanwhile, Ribble Valley council in Lancashire said last week six of its 13 drivers had quit and that it was struggling to replace them, according to reports.
Croydon council in south London has also warned locals of the “severe” impact on waste collection services because of driver shortages, telling residents their refuse workers “will get to you as soon as possible”.
Two of the largest council waste services contractors, Amey and Veolia, are now offering signing-up bonuses of £1,500 to recruit bin lorry drivers.
“The shortage of heavy goods drivers is having a profound impact. If you’re a driver you can go to the highest bidder and that is often the supermarket hauliers. It’s driving up costs for everyone,” Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin told The Guardian.
A government spokesperson said capacity had been increased for HGV driving tests.