SOE News

O’Donovan Waste Disposal

12th Sep 2018

As a market leader in the recycling and waste management field and a speaker at RWM, O’Donovan Waste Disposal is eager to spread its messages of best practice, health and safety as a priority, and progressive sustainability. Managing Director Jacqueline O’Donovan, who runs the family business with her three siblings, will be speaking at the Business Growth Centre at RWM on September 13.

Best Practice

With the industry going through a period of transformation, how can this industry leader set the tone for best practice as the whole landscape for waste management is changing?

Jacqueline O’Donovan (O’Donovan Waste Disposal) said: “It’s a very competitive industry, so if we have won an award or we’ve achieved an accreditation in something new, others in the industry will want to replicate what we’ve done. My aim is to encourage organisations - especially SMEs - that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s not just for the big PLCs with endless pots of funds. My mission is to show the SMEs that it can be done comprehensively and to a high spec.”
The change the industry needs is slowly coming to fruition but, says Jacqueline, more must be done to alter the narrative around waste disposal for it to truly prosper. More role models are needed to reach a younger generation, and for it to become an attractive career option, the perceived image of the profession must be corrected.

“For waste and logistics, the industry is finally moving into the 21st century, which I think is badly needed and well overdue. Safety standards and compliance- although we’re overburdened with regulation – is becoming fit for purpose,” said Jacqueline.

“I have drivers on £70,000 a year. I don’t think the industry actively goes out and promotes itself in the right places. A recent study showed that 73% of parents surveyed didn’t want their kids to come into the logistics industry – basically not to become lorry drivers, but nobody is asking why and telling them how great it is – and it is great. When you’re in it, you’re in it for life, it’s a passion. It is very hard for someone who’s not in it to understand,” added Jacqueline.

Road Safety

After teaming up with Brake, the road safety charity, O’Donovan has supported campaigns for safer roads, especially in urban environments. Jacqueline believes that road accidents can be reduced, but only through sustained dialogue, with more openness from all parties.
Recently we have seen fatalities with HGV’s and cyclists. The problem needs to be addressed from both sides. The construction and logistics industry are doing so much training via practical means with drivers going out on bikes, online training and also classroom-based learning. I think some cyclists’ organisations aren’t involved in the debate but if they are not engaged, like we continue to be, how are they going to find out about the good work that is being done and all the free training available to them. Open dialogue is needed for everyone’s benefit.

O’Donovan continues to support several charities, including RoadPeace, which helps road crash victims, and the See Me Save Me safety campaign, which aims to give a voice to vulnerable road users. “We all need to work collectively to try to improve safety and everyone needs to understand that we’re all on the same side, that road safety is paramount, and everybody wants to get home safe.”


Top of the agenda at the show is sustainability and O’Donovan, along with many of the big waste management organisations, has already introduced measures to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Just the simplest of things we do, such as lorries idling. Lorry drivers pull up, leave the engine running and have their break, but in doing so they’re burning diesel, they’re polluting the air. So, we implemented a programme to give drivers a red, amber and green certificate based on their idling figures each week. Of course, the driver did not want to get the red certificate or been seen to be handed a red certificate – so we reduced our idling over a number of months by 50%. Although our kilometres and fleet have increased, our diesel bill has gone down by 21% and our Co2 has gone down by 27%.

“When I’m speaking at an industry event and I’m telling the audience that, due to my training methods, I’m saving 25% on my annual insurance, and have done for three years in a row, understandably, they want to adopt those methods too. If I reduce my diesel bill by 21%, they will want to reduce theirs too. In the industry we’re doing nothing different to anyone else – processing our waste, picking up skips – the more I get out there and tell people how we do it, the quicker they can do it, the better the environment, and the better their bottom line.”
Having been in the industry for over 30 years, Jacqueline describes the plastics crisis as a ‘car crash waiting to happen’ and is keen for a re-evaluation of the current strategy to eliminate them.

“We were already being told by the plastic recyclers ages ago that they didn’t want toys, they didn’t want the hard plastic, so up to 18 months, 2 years ago, we were already being restricted with regards to plastic and what we can do with them. And I really don’t understand why we have 55 different types of plastic. What irritates me is that everybody is focusing on straws, plastic water bottles and coffee cups, and those three items are probably the easiest to recycle. It’s everything else that’s causing the problem, so it’s good that companies are going to get rid of their straws, but what about their sauce tubs, cups, and more importantly, what about consumer habits?” said Jacqueline.


O’Donovan is committed to the welfare of its staff, so much so that Jacqueline spends time with her drivers on the weekend, talking through any concerns they have.

“I’m a trainer, so I train my staff on a Saturday morning. They feel that they’ve got that special time with me when they can tell me their trials and tribulations and what they’ve faced from the last week or month on the road; they feel like they’re being listened to. We’re just about to launch a wellbeing plan for staff and particularly for the drivers – it is not just a mental health programme –we hope it will bring a massive positive change and improve how they feel at work and when they are driving. They’ll then be able to adopt it in their private life as well, which I think is important. It’s not solely about work or about the bottom line; it’s a wider well-being subject,” concluded Jacqueline.

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