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One working day with our "waste men" in Zabrze


The reporter of the weekly Nowina Zabrzańskie accompanied our employees from Zabrze (Poland) during their working day. How does it look like? What challenges are waiting for the brigades to empty the containers in the city? - you will find out from the reporter „Garbage in our hands”.

 Link to the orginal version of reportage

Garbage in our hands

Do we sort garbage? From our declarations it follows, that most of Zabrze inhabitants do. We took a short tour with .A.S.A. employees to look at our waste from their perspective.

It’s 6 a.m. Wolności square. Such early hours, but there are lots of people walking by. A garbage truck is entering the very heart of the city; its team must hurry because garbage must be collected from the city centre immediately, before the city wakes up for good. Tenement houses are densely arranged here, and the way to garbage bins leads through winding paths, sometimes even steep stairs to high floors.

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Our first garbage loading stop is at two housing communities on Powstańców Śląskich street. One of them enclosed its area, you must know the access code to get there. The team knows the system perfectly, the gate opens without having to wake up the residents. We take a look into the bins. It’s not bad. Perfectly sorted glass in the green bin, yellow one for plastics also without any major objections. It’s a pity that someone threw pizza leftovers to the blue bin for paper. Several plastic and glass bottles could land somewhere else than the bin for mixed waste. Unfortunately, they don’t have a chance for recycling. The situation is worse right behind the fence, where the other housing community has their bin shelter. It’s not enclosed, so everyone throws in whatever and wherever they want. There are scattered papers around the bins; in the nearby bushes, there are old clothes and bags with waste. All the bins are overfilled, but surprisingly, one of them is completely empty. They say it’s usually the case. It’s a metal bin with a flap. No one knows why it’s not used. Residents should know that we don’t clean the area around the bins, it’s the role of the residents and administration. ‘If we had to clean mess like this one, we would run out of time’, explain .A.S.A. operators. We collect the mixed waste. The first bin is unloaded in the truck, waste is initially crushed there. Suddenly, we hear a bang. My guides already see what it means. Someone threw debris in the mixed waste. Debris can seriously damage the truck. This time it wasn’t much, but in other cases, the truck should immediately return to the base, to be emptied.

Tuned like the three Musketeers

Mirosław, Dariusz and Marek are our guides. They proudly say that they’re a well-tuned team. Mirek has been the driver for 3 years in the company. Darek boasts about 20 years’ service, but it is Marek who has an impressive 26 years’ service in the company. ‘We know each other very well, we even meet in our free time after work. We know our families, know a lot about our problems. And we understand each other without words, we know what each of us should do so that the job is going at a good pace. Full synchronisation. And maybe that’s why we don’t like the holiday time, because if one of us goes on holiday, a substitute from another region comes over. You have to explain everything again, you have to tune in from the scratch’, they explain.

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They like their work, but when I ask them if they’d recommend it to their friends they are not so enthusiastic. ‘It’s hard work, but that’s not an argument, there’s hard physical work in other sectors too. We’re sorry that our work is so underestimated by the residents, they very rarely show any kindness. We feel that they look down on us, treat us like servants. That’s sad’, Mirosław explains.

Waste disposal, like workout at a gym

Their work is sometimes a breakneck task. For instance, to get to garbage bins at the tenement house at Wolności street, you need to wait a lot at the intercom, because the company was not given access to codes. Sometimes you have to call everyone to get the right person who’s willing to open. Then you have to climb the stairs to the first floor, open another door and get to the backyard. That’s where the garbage bins are. To get them to the truck, you have to go back through the staircase and do eleven steps. The housing community installed special rails on the stairs. On those rails, you’ve got to roll up a bin with 120 litres of garbage. The empty bin must be rolled back to the first floor. And that’s the procedure every several days, according to the schedule. However, the most difficult waste collection in the centre is from another tenement house at Wolności street, because you have to reach the bins from Świętej Barbary street. You have to go down narrow steps on a slope and then take a narrow path. Rolling the overfilled bins up the slope is a real gym workout. It’s worst during winter, because no one removes snow from this access. It’s very slippery, you have to watch out, it’s easy to get an injury.

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We are entering Barbara housing estate. Theoretically, it’s easier, because the garbage bins are along the road. In practice, it’s not so easy. The full bins are at the street, but they’re blocked by parked passenger cars. An that’s despite the fact that there is a ‘keep clear’ sign painted on the street. A human would somehow squeeze in, but not a bin. At best, it would scratch the car body. Where to look for the car owner? There are 10-floor blocks of flats all around. What to do then? ‘We do our best. Sometimes, we’ll find a broader passage between cars which are parked several metres away’, they explain. They do an extra distance, time passes, and the driver of the car which is behind the garbage truck, is beeping the horn for them to hurry. Unfortunately, he has to wait. You can’t overtake on narrow, one-way residential estate roads. The driver will be beeping his horn for a long time. ‘Sometimes we think residents don’t pay any attention to the road signs at all. There are places in Zabrze with vertical signs saying that on the given day, at the given time, you can’t park your car, because that’s when we arrive to collect waste. They’re not respected, everyone’s happy that they found a free parking space, and they don’t care about anything else’, they say.

Next address. Park Hutniczy, where the carriageway is being repaired. No entry. Smaller cars benefit from the bypass around the theatre administration building, but it’s too narrow for the garbage truck. How to get the garbage bins from the Orphanage, it’s about four hundred metres away!

Complaints for incorrect and untimely collection

I ask them how often residents complain about incorrect or untimely collection of waste. ‘We do everything to prevent such complaints completely. But very often they are not our fault. For example, in a single-family housing estate, an owner didn’t put his bin before the enclosure. We can see that it’s full, we even press the bell on the gate, hoping the owner will come and realise the situation. Usually no one opens, and we don’t enter the property because we don’t have the right. Several hours later, there’s a phone call with a complaint that we weren’t at that address. Sometimes we empty the bins, but on the same day, in just a few hours it’s full again, so there’s another complaint that we didn’t collect it. Fortunately, we have GPS which constantly monitors our work’, the employees comment.

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This year, the city officials ordered that in places where waste is sorted wrongly, we should put stickers with a sad face and a note: “you’ve sorted it wrong’. This is to be the first warning for the housing community, so that the residents are more careful when separating waste. ‘Does it work?’, I ask. They just open the lid of the bin, where the sad face was already stuck. There is still mixed waste. ‘First, you have to teach the residents, and then check, and if they don’t obey, charge a higher rate, applicable for those who don’t sort waste’, our guides propose.

But the residents reply that why sort waste if a truck arrives and packs everything into one vehicle. Why worry? ‘That’s not true and we have to explain that to everyone. Yes, there are situations that a truck for mixed waste comes to the garbage shelter and loads garbage from black, blue and yellow bins. We do it only if we receive such an order, because previous teams collecting only sorted waste thought that the bins were filled with mixed waste. When going to such an address, first I thoroughly take photos of such a filthy bin, then I load it to mixed waste and once again I take a photo of the empty bin. Look at the photo gallery in my smartphone, we have to evidence everything in the company. Of course, it’s usually the case that when we take such bins for sorting, immediately there’s a phone call from residents who saw our actions. I wish they would rebuke their neighbours who don’t sort waste and ruin the work of those who do’, they explain.

Gold and money in garbage

After two hours of collecting garbage, I say goodbye to my guides. I ask them if they found any treasures in the garbage. ‘Once, a long time ago, someone threw away a lot of money, and several years ago they found gold jewellery. But such findings are very rare’, they laugh. 



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Why with us

  • International team of experts

    Our team of more than 4.300 employees in 8 countries of CEE signs responsible for the smooth operation of all our services.

  • Waste as a resource

    Thanks to modern waste treatment solutions we give 570.000 tons of secondary raw materials a second life annually.

  • Just in time

    Nearly 1,3 million containers, skips and bins of all sizes and more than 1.250 trucks or special vehicles ensure secure and efficient collection and transport of all waste for further treatment.

  • Experienced service provider

    8 countries, 1.315 municipalities and 4,6 mil residents served, 21 joint-ventures with municipalities, 50.200 industrial clients. This is our brief profile.

Plants and equipment

150 special and carrying vehicles

130.000 dust bins

more than 1100 big volume containers

2 mechanical – biological treatment plants

landfill for hazardous waste

landfill for non-hazardous and industrial waste

installation for disposal of liquid hazardous waste and industrial sewage

Did you know?
300 to 400 kg of compost can be produced from 1 tonne of biodegradable waste
Did you know?
Metals and glass are 100% recyclable
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In Europe, up to 90% of the green glass bottle is made of recycled glass
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More than 0,7 litres of base lube oil can be produced from 1,0 litre of used mineral oil and is being used for engine, transmission and hydraulic oils
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With the energy needed for productions of 1 drink can from bauxite, it is possible to produce 20 cans from recycled aluminium
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Recycling of 1 tonne of steel saves 1.100 kilograms of coal, and 55 kilograms of limestone
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Used paper can be recycled and used in fresh paper production up to 6 times
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Recycling 1 tonne of paper saves more than 2 tonnes of wood
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1 tonne of refuse-derived fuel produced by FCC CEE Group 600 kilograms of heating oil or more than 800 kilograms of stone coal
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Recycling of plastics saves limited virgin raw materials (crude oil and natural gas) and reduces energy consumption by 80 to 90%