Derbyshire Live readers say bin men have it easier today than the 1980s

Derbyshire Live readers have shared their memories of binmen from the 1980s, with many suggesting that the job was harder than it is today. We recently published a collection of pictures of bin collectors in Pear Tree in Derby, showing what life was like 40 years ago. More than 100 people commented on the article on social media and on our website, with many sharing fond memories of how bin men did the gruelling work with a smile.

That was despite workers often having to lift steel bins filled with coal and ash, and risking getting bitten by dogs as they went around the back of houses to collect bins. But it wasn’t all fun and games, with some readers recalling family members who were left with back and shoulder injuries from constantly lifting the heavy bins. Many have also noted the differences between the 1980s and the modern day, with wheelie bins, food waste collections and separating recycling and household waste all changes to have come in since then.

: Get the latest nostalgia stories from Derbyshire Live One reader said: “I still wonder how we managed with only one small bin and often larger families than now. They say we are more environmentally friendly now, but are we really when we produced so little waste back then in comparison to now, reusing many items like glass bottles and papers, composting veg waste etc?

So in a way we were way ahead of our time and could maybe learn some lessons from looking back instead of forward.” Another user replied: “Many people still had a coal fire or burnt stuff in the garden incinerator – this would be decidedly dodgy with aerosol cans. As I recall it there was much less food waste as well.

I think this is a result of people doing big shops at supermarkets because there aren’t the options of a butcher, baker or greengrocer now. “Separating the recyclable packaging from other waste has made a massive difference to the normal load though. Agree about the mess that is left behind now (not just refuse collectors either).

Repair vans etc leave a considerable amount of metal, screws and such like on our communal parking area.” The bins in the 1980s were not distinguished by colour, and were often made of metal. They were tipped into dustcarts by hand, with there often being several more people working on one rubbish truck than the one or two who accompany them on their rounds today.

One reader who is a former bin man said: “I was a bin man in the 80s carrying metal bins on my shoulder then it changed to black bags which were just as hard work but more dangerous due to broken glass inside which you couldn’t see. Once I threw a bag in the back of the lorry and someone had put a bamboo cane inside which hit me full force in the eye which resulted in a trip straight to hospital and time off work due to scaring. Today a bin man’s job is a walk in the park and they don’t have to risk getting bitten by dogs either.”

Many said that bin men stayed cheery and friendly despite having a tough job.

Another reader said: “Years ago the dustbins were steel and, as houses had coal fires, they often had heavy ashes in them.

They were very heavy and filled with often quite nasty contents and had to be lifted and carried, often a long distance to the wagon. The work was hazardous, dirty and physically demanding and done in all weathers and conditions. “Today, though less demanding it’s not a job I would look for, but it is much better than years ago.

Whilst I’m on the subject, as a Derby ratepayer I feel we get a very good service where I live and the workers are always courteous and obliging for residents who need extra assistance.” Steve Rice also recalled fond memories of riding with the bin men as a child. He said: “When I was about five, living in Borrowash in the mid-60s, my late mother used to let the bin men take me for a ride on the back of the lorry and drop me back off again.

Imagine that today.”

Do you agree with your fellow readers?

Let us know in the comments below.