News | 14 December 2022

The Street Cleaners of Wellington

Keeping Wellington clean is a 24/7 job – from cleaning sumps, to clearing sand off the roads around Lyall Bay beach. In the past year, there have been over 3200 cleaning requests in the city, including 122 incidents of fouling and 700 illegal dumping collections totaling 25 tonnes of waste. But who are the people doing the cleaning?

Street cleaners at work putting recycling in a truck.

Run by contractors Eco Maintenance, the Street Cleaning team know the city inside and out. 

With only 32 people in the team, they manage to do up to 300 service requests every month as well as keep on top of a regular cleaning schedule, says Team Manager Tony de Jongh.

“We do rubbish collection in the city centre, and pick up all the recycling on a Tuesday, which includes around 10 tonnes of cardboard each week and one tonne of mixed recycling every month. We water blast footpaths and scrub them down, but also use sweepers and blowers. We clean out all the sumps in the CBD and Southern area, and clean about 15,000 of them a year. 

“The most consistent request is illegal dumping, and we work closely with the Council to provide information for investigations. We find a lot of mattresses and broken furniture!”

While they have their regular routine and common service requests, the team also do critical jobs and deal with a lot of unpleasant things, says Tony. 

“We have found weapons in bins in the past and are the ones to clean up when an animal has been hit on the road. After a big weekend, we are also the ones to be cleaning up fouling incidents in the city. People can go walk past a few hours later and it will be gone!”

Tony says that there is a common misconception that the cleaners do very basic jobs in the city but in fact are all incredibly skilled individuals who are constantly adapting.

“You need to be a jack of all trades in this job. We have a very diverse team who do these thankless tasks, and they each have different backgrounds that bring something to their role. A lot of people have licenses to operate crazy machinery or need to know how to complete jobs like fetching items out of sumps.”

Not only are they incredibly skilled, Tony adds that the team like to go above and beyond when they can.

“Once we got a request from a bank where they needed help finding a parcel. It had bounced into the rubbish bin and collected by us. They really wanted the parcel back, so our team brought the compactor out into the yard, sifted through all the rubbish, and tried their best to find it. 

“Unfortunately they couldn’t locate it, but the bank appreciated the effort that went into it and the team were happy to help.” 

To make things easier for the street cleaning team, there are small things people can do to help. 

If you notice a job in the city, take a photo of where it is and provide as many details as possible so the team can easily locate and fix the problem. 

And if you see a cleaner out and about, don’t be afraid to say hello adds Tony.

“The team really care about the city. A smile and a conversation really go a long way. When they all come back to their facility, the first thing they would share is if they had someone speak to them about the work they’re doing. They care so much about the people in the city, so that’s why they put so much care into their work.”