08.03.2020 | News

Women in the waste industry


Just recently, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, a day that recognises the achievements of women in various fields. At Fresh Start Waste, we take this opportunity to shed light on the remarkable women working in the waste industry. In this article, we will feature interviews with inspiring women who have made significant contributions to our company and the waste management sector.

For International Women’s Day we want to celebrate the females who help our business tick and prove that gender is no barrier to success in a traditionally masculine sector.

However, just because we employ many more women than most waste management companies and are fully committed to providing equal opportunities, doesn’t mean that we discriminate against anybody. Indeed, we try to be as meritocratic as possible, which is championed by our CEO, Nicola McGrath.

As the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Fresh Start Waste, Nicola serves as a leading lady in our organisation. With a passion for waste management, Nicola has been instrumental in shaping our company’s success. When asked about the female figure she most admires, Nicola mentions her mother, highlighting her strength, care and unwavering support.

Nicola’s Journey and Achievements

Nicola’s ambition to become a professional dancer turned into a successful career in waste management. She considers being a mother and contributing to the Fresh Start journey as her greatest achievements. Over the past twelve years, Fresh Start Waste has grown significantly, operating 28 trucks across Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, and parts of Merseyside. Nicola also shares her earlier experience as a professional dancer, which allowed her to travel the world.

“I believe that the best person should get the job irrelevant of gender. If you are hard-working, resilient and determined to succeed, it doesn’t matter what gender you are in any industry, including waste.”

Nicola co-founded Fresh Start in 2005 with her father and, after performing a variety of roles in the company, eventually worked her way up to the top of the ladder. But has having a female CEO changed the way that other waste firms view Fresh Start? We thought it was a perfect time to put the female CEO under the spotlight for women in waste.

“It’s been interesting at times. However, from my dealings with other companies, the overall reaction has been extremely positive. In the end, if you lead by example and demonstrate the types of behaviours that you expect from others, people will respect you for it.”

Which living female person do you most admire and why?  Definitely my mother. She is a wonderful person. Strong, caring and very supportive. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A professional dancer.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  I would say first of all being a mother and having a family. Secondly, being part of the Fresh Start journey from day one. Twelve years on, having been through all the growing pains and sleepless nights of a new start up, we are running 28 trucks across Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and parts of Merseyside, employing over a 100 staff. Prior to that, becoming a Professional Dancer and travelling the world.  

How would you like to be remembered?  I would like to be remembered for being a truly honest, kind and determined person.

How do you relax?  Gosh, relaxation, something we should all do more of. I don’t often have the chance to switch off, but when I do, I particularly like Pilates. 

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? Have courage, be kind and never give up. 

international women's day - women in the waste industry

Promoting Equal Opportunities

Fresh Start Waste is committed to providing equal opportunities to all employees. Nicola emphasises that the best person for any job, regardless of gender, should be selected based on merit. As a meritocratic organisation, Fresh Start Waste focuses on hard work, resilience, and determination, irrespective of gender.

Breaking Stereotypes

While the waste industry is traditionally male-dominated, Fresh Start Waste challenges this norm. As a boost for women in the waste industry, the company employs numerous women in various roles, including positions of leadership. Sarah Hobson, a HGV Class 2 driver, proudly represents women on collection rounds. Despite being a minority in her field, Sarah feels accepted and hopes to inspire other women to pursue careers in waste management.

“I drive a 28 tonne refuse vehicle collecting commercial waste from businesses around the Cheshire and Greater Manchester areas. No two days are the same and it can be challenging at times, especially recently with the adverse weather conditions, but I love it!”

Social convention often means that there can be puzzled reactions when someone takes up a career which isn’t deemed suitable for their gender, but Sarah says that her friends and family have been right behind her from the outset.

“Everyone was really pleased for me to get the job driving for Fresh Start. I put a lot of hard work in to getting where I am with my licence. It isn’t easy, but very fulfilling when the examiner tells you you’ve passed your test.

“It doesn’t bother me at all being the only female driver.” she continues, insisting that she doesn’t feel like a trailblazer. “I feel accepted by everybody and I’m not treated any differently to the male drivers. I hope that when women see another woman already in this role, it will inspire them and give them the confidence to try it for themselves.”

women in the waste industry

Driving Progress: Kirsty Atherton, Transport Manager

Back inside and our new Transport Manager, Kirsty Atherton, is midway through her first week in her new role, although it’s certainly not her first week at Fresh Start.

Starting as an office junior, Kirsty’s passion for the operational side of the business led her to become the Depot Manager and eventually the Transport Manager. Kirsty appreciates Fresh Start’s inclusivity and encourages more women to explore opportunities in male-dominated industries.

“I’ve been in the waste industry for 17 years, 3 and-a-half of those here.”

“Fresh Start is much more inclusive than other waste companies, without a doubt. We have lots of women who work here and lots of women in prominent positions making a real difference to our company #TheseGirlsCan!!”

Having started off as an office junior when she was a teenager, Kirsty has seen the industry from lots of different angles. Turning her hand to everything from the sales department to working on a weigh-bridge, she says her heart has always been on the operational side of the business and was rewarded when Fresh Start opened their Preston depot.

“I was given the opportunity to become the Depot Manager, which I grabbed with both hands. I then took a year out to have my beautiful baby girl, and when I returned to work, Fresh Start yet again supported my passion for the industry and invested time and money into my development by putting me through my Transport Managers CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence).

“Now, I am responsible for around 45 drivers and drivers mates plus a team of 6 admin staff.”

women in the waste industry

She also has a few ideas up her sleeve as to how to get more women into the waste industry. “The stereotype of it being a ‘Man’s World’ needs to change. Personally, I would love to see more women coming forward for driving jobs. During my CPC I was horrified to find out the percentage of female drivers in the transport industry as a whole could be as low 2%.

“I really hope that during International Woman’s Day women read articles like this and it makes them more inclined to look at the more male dominated industries for a career, because Nicola, Sarah and I can guarantee – and have proven – that the opportunities are endless.”

Fresh Start’s support of women doesn’t begin and end in the workplace, though. We currently sponsor athlete Agnieska Gorzynska, the 2016 world arm wrestling champion.

“Agy’s manager is a family friend” says Nicola, “That’s how I first became aware of the sponsorship opportunity. We’ve supported her for the last three years and our latest vehicle in the fleet is named after her.

“We don’t have any further sponsorship plans at the moment; one world champion is enough for now!”

It’s back to our CEO for more information about women wanting to embark on a career in waste. Specifically, what kind of roles are available?

“The waste industry needs to make it clear that there are no barriers to enter this field. As well as being out on the road, jobs in the sector include working in operations, sales, marketing, finance, H&S/compliance, administration and management.”

Here at Fresh Start, we are fully behind International Women’s Day and want to encourage more females to work within the waste industry.

See more about Fresh Start’s waste services including collection, waste management and recycling. Alternatively, call us on 0808 178 1066 or email info@fswaste.co.uk.


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