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Who Works at a Landfill and What Do They Do?

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45 people work for Canterbury Waste Services (CWS). Together they make sure that rubbish is safely collected and stored underground in the Kate Valley landfill.

Hooklift trucks and trailer drivers

CWS employ 17 drivers to drive their fleet of 14 heavy truck and trailer rigs.

  • These drivers start as early as five o'clock in the morning. They drive to one of the transfer stations in Canterbury to load the large hooklift bins full of rubbish onto their trucks and trailers.
  • They then drive to Kate Valley to unload the full bins, pick up empty ones, and go on to collect their next load at another station.
  • They usually haul four loads per day to the landfill.

All drivers are carefully selected before being employed by CWS. They hold Class 5 driver licences. These licences allow them to drive the large truck and trailers, which can weigh up to 48 tonnes when loaded. Drivers are required to undergo regular health checks, to ensure they are safe to operate large vehicles.

The CWS fleet includes several DAF, Freightliner and in the past, Mercedes trucks.

  • All of the trucks are powered by large diesel engines that have up to 560 horsepower (about 420kW).
  • Each truck has a large crane that lifts the bins off and onto both the truck and trailer. These cranes are known as “hooklift” cranes.
  • Each complete truck and trailer rig costs about $450,000 each, which includes the crane, and all the equipment inside the trucks.

All of the trucks have cameras that monitor what is happening around the truck, like the “blind spot” down the left hand side of the truck cab. All of these cameras are installed to improve safety and visibility around the truck. There are other electronic devices in the trucks to help the drivers do their jobs safely and efficiently.

Each of the CWS truck and trailers do about 120,000 kilometres per year. That is approximately 5 to 6 times what a normal car does each year.

Compactor operators

CWS employ 17 heavy machine operators at the Kate Valley Landfill in North Canterbury. All of these people are carefully selected on their experience and attitude.

  • Two very important operators are the two that drive the very heavy machines that spread and compact the rubbish: 
    1. The first machine is a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer that spreads the rubbish out in a thin layer.
    2. The second machine, a Caterpillar 836H, compacts (squashes) the rubbish.
  • The combined cost of these two machines was nearly $3 million.

It is important to reduce the volume of the waste before it is buried, mainly to ensure the landfill does not take up too much space – that is why it is compacted.

All landfill machine operators are trained to drive all of the machines on site. That includes the two machines mentioned above, but also:

  • diggers
  • dump trucks
  • tractors
  • other large earthworks equipment.

They usually apply for and sit a special drivers licence endorsement called “wheels, tracks and rollers” (WTR).

Cover soil spreader operators

At the Kate Valley Landfill, like all modern landfills, soil is used to cover the rubbish after it has been spread and compacted. This is done for several reasons:

  1. so no odour escapes
  2. litter is not blown away by the wind
  3. vermin (e.g. rats, mice, possums and seagulls) cannot get into the rubbish.

Specially trained machine operators use landfill machinery like diggers and bulldozers to spread the 'cover' soil over the rubbish at the end of each work day. These operators work towards attaining their WTR driver licence endorsements.

Contractors - electricians, maintenance

There are many other tradespeople who work at the landfill. They include:

  • mechanics
  • welders
  • tyre servicers
  • electricians.

CWS usually contract these specialist people (that means they hire them from local companies) to do the maintenance work on their machines and equipment.

These people are usually qualified in their particular trades. An electrician for example has to be properly trained and qualified to work on electrical equipment – you can die if you get it wrong! CWS do not use tradespeople who are not qualified and experienced in their jobs.

Other contractors are called in from time to time to do things like:

  • mowing
  • road repairs
  • building maintenance.

Ensuring that all equipment, grounds and buildings are well maintained, means that the landfill operations are done properly and safely.

Designers and planners

All modern engineering facilities need to be planned, designed and constructed properly. To do this, professional consultants are usually used to carry out these jobs. These include:

  • civil engineers
  • environmental engineers
  • various technical staff
  • planners.

Such people are usually graduates who have spent many years at university and have gained ‘degrees’ in their particular field. They are paid to come to the landfill site from time to time to check the progress of construction works and in some cases, to do monitoring measurements on the site.

Management and administration

All businesses need to be managed and guided correctly. Experienced and qualified managers are appointed to run Canterbury Waste Service Limited which runs the Kate Valley Landfill.

CWS employ 11 people in various management and administration roles at the landfill. These people ensure that all of the work is done safely and efficiently.

Often management staff have been promoted into their jobs after progressing from other roles in the business. It is not uncommon for a good machine operator to learn and train to do more senior jobs as a manager.

All businesses need administration staff to keep the ‘wheels turning’. These people look after:

  • ensuring people are paid on time
  • sending out the bills to pay for waste disposal
  • making sure everyone has the correct gear and training to do their jobs safely.

These people are vital to the business.

Audio Māori keywords: 


Challenge: For one of the landfill jobs, search an online careers site like http://www.careers.govt.nz/ to find out more about it.

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Canterbury Waste Services (CWS) employ 17 drivers to drive their fleet of 14 heavy truck and trailer rigs. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

Each of the CWS truck and trailers do about 120,000 kilometres per year. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

CWS employ 17 heavy machine operators at the Kate Valley Landfill in North Canterbury. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

Two very important operators are the two that drive the very heavy machines that spread and compact the rubbish. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

There are many other tradespeople that work at the landfill. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

CWS employ 11 people in various management and administration roles at the landfill. These people ensure that all of the work is done safely and efficiently. Image: CWS.