Fresh Start’s women in waste
Sunday, 8 March is this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) – an annual event celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of ladies all over the world.
A focal point in the movement for women’s rights, Fresh Start wanted to highlight the importance of IWD, so we spoke to some of our inspiring female team members ahead of the big day to learn more about what it is like to be a woman in waste.
“One thing is for certain… the waste sector is never going away!” beams Transport Manager Kirsty Atherton with pride. “I have been in this industry for 20 years – entering it right after leaving school – so one of the key messages I want to put out there is that the sector, and Fresh Start in particular, is definitely not a man’s world.
‘Not only do we have a female CEO, who is the highest-ranking executive in any company in any industry, we also have an even split of men and women operating as Transport Controllers. We should also be proud that, in a sector where females comprise only one percent of HGV drivers, we have two at Fresh Start – putting us well above the national average.”
During her career, Kirsty has gained a lot of respect from her peers – having worked her way up through a number of job roles. Today, she is in charge of service delivery of the fleet – ensuring all vehicles on the road are fully compliant with all legal requirements – and providing an exceptional experience to Fresh Start’s customers.
“The thing I love most about my job is that no two days are the same,” adds Kirsty. “It is an interesting sector to be part of because it changes a lot – from the introduction of new laws and regulations to developments surrounding sustainability. I would not hesitate to recommend a career in waste to women and I would advise they do not pigeonhole the industry as male-dominated when the evidence – especially at Fresh Start – proves otherwise.”
At the helm of the company is Nicola McGrath, who founded Fresh Start with her father Paul Rogers 15 years ago. She now leads a team of 126 people – working across multiple sites in the North West.
“My dad has been in business all his working life,” explains Nicola. “Whilst running a coal business which is mainly seasonal, he recognised the need to diversify into a new sector that would provide work all year round. Waste management is not a luxury, it’s a need. It’s also an incredibly positive area to work in – helping to address environmental challenges that will make the world a better place for future generations.
‘We started out with a single driver and a second-hand truck, and our first client had just six bins in central Manchester. Today, Fresh Start is now leading the way in waste management – emptying close to 1.5 million bins each year!”
Nicola’s background is in office management. Now working in the waste sector, she sets the strategic direction of the business – putting the right people in the right roles to grow Fresh Start each year.
“It has never phased me – operating in what is often thought of as a very male-dominated sector,” adds Nicola. “You need to be tough, determined and driven to succeed, but that is true of most industries. I personally know of only one other female CEO in waste, so I see it as an interesting area of opportunity for women aspiring to senior management.
‘I am incredibly proud of how far we have come as a business and I would love to see more females in operational roles at Fresh Start – particularly at the wheel of our trucks! This is a great place to work and we love to hear from anyone who feels they have something to offer in the waste industry.”
Stephanie Williams joined the team at our Swinton depot last December. In her role as a Weigh Bridge Operator, she is responsible for recording the weight of trucks arriving and leaving the depot, as well as noting what the waste is comprised of.
“I used to be an Enforcement Officer – working for the council and the High Courts,” says Stephanie. “Part of my role involved making sure the environment was protected, so I saw how that could tie in well with working in waste management. I felt a good vibe from the people who interviewed me and I liked the fact that Fresh Start is a family-run business, plus the hours and days work well for me.
‘Working in waste is exciting! There are different loads coming in constantly and it is interesting to see how the waste is disposed of. I do not see why it should just be men who get to work in this sector and I hope other women will give it a go too!”
One of Fresh Start’s newest recruits is HGV Refuse Driver Liz Stephens, who joined the team three weeks ago. She now covers a route comprising Warrington, St Helens, Haydock and parts of Widnes.
“I used to work in operational logistics; then I became self-employed whilst my daughter was growing up,” Liz explains. “Now she is a teenager, she doesn’t need me as much! I could have gone back into an office-based role, but I thought: ‘Why not give myself a challenge?’
‘I passed my HGV test last November and now I love working at Fresh Start! It is an active outdoors role where every day is different and everyone is really helpful. Even when you think you can’t do something, you get encouragement and moral support. There’s always a ‘Fresh’ face willing you to do better!
‘I believe in girl power and that every industry has something to offer female workers.”