Christmas tragedy as man found dead at recycling plant after sleeping in bin

A man was found dead in a recycling plant on Christmas Eve in Sunderland, after he was believed to have spent the night sleeping in a bin, highlighting once more the danger of using waste containers as shelter.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jay McLaren, a Sunderland resident and machine adjuster at local printing company Encore Envelopes, was reported missing by his family on the morning of 23 December 2017 after he did not return home following a night out in the town centre.

Christmas tragedy as man found dead at recycling plant after sleeping in bin
McClaren was last seen in Sunderland city centre at the Arizona bar
He is thought to have climbed into a recycling bin in the early hours of 23 December 2017 to sleep following a phone call with his fiancee. He was found at the recycling plant in nearby Houghton at 9.40pm on Christmas Eve.

Police are not treating the circumstances of McLaren’s death as suspicious, although they are still appealing for information from the public. An inquest is set to open at Sunderland Coroner's Court this week.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said of the incident: "While it is believed there was no third party involvement, police are seeking information from the public to help trace Jay’s last movements.

"The last confirmed sighting of Jay is at 4.15am on Saturday, December 23, 2017 outside Arizona and Purple bar. From here, he is understood to have been taken to the recycling plant after entering a bin that was later collected in the early hours of Saturday 23 December 2017.

"Jay’s family are being supported by specialist officers and wish to send a message to drinkers and partygoers to stay safe on a night out. They’re urging people to stay together and keep an eye out for friends."

Danger of sleeping in bins

McLaren leaves behind his fiancee and two-year-old daughter, who are being given support by specialist officers, while a GoFundMe page has been set up to support them, with the page raising over £2,000.

His friend, Paul Tunstall, who set up the GoFundMe page, wrote: “He was out with his football team mates on Friday night in his typical jovial mood and he had recently spoken to his fiancée on the phone saying it was a good night out and he was looking forward to Christmas Day.”

The tragic incident serves as a reminder of the dangers of sleeping in bins, dangers that had already been brought into sharp relief following the 20-week search for the body of RAF gunner Corrie McKeague in the summer, who is believed to have fallen asleep in a bin in Bury St Edmunds after a night out before being caught up in refuse sent to landfill or incineration.

The issue of sleeping in bins has been the subject of several national campaigns, with rough sleepers often still inside when a bin is emptied, posing a huge risk as many collection vehicles compress and shred material to increase carrying capacity.

As well as those forced to sleep on the streets, there is a growing trend of people entering bins on the way home from nights out to sleep. The covered and secure environment provided by large commercial bins, which are often filled with clean and padded materials like cardboard, provide an enticing place to sleep. However, becoming caught up in the collection of the bins can prove deadly. 

Back in 2016, waste management company Biffa reported that it finds approximately three people a week sleeping in the company’s bins - a five-fold increase from 2013/14. The company attributed the rise in part to the increase in homelessness, with 4,134 people estimated to sleep rough every night in England, according to the latest figures released by charity Homeless Link in January 2017.

Biffa’s drivers are now instructed to check all large bins for commercial clients before they are emptied, while all the firm’s trucks are now fitted with a camera in the vehicle’s compactor to allow the driver to see what is being tipped into the vehicle. However, there is still a high risk of injury from falling into the truck even before compaction has started.

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