New research to address issue of people sleeping in bins

With homelessness figures on the rise, the waste management industry is faced with increasing numbers of rough sleepers turning to waste containers as a source of shelter, putting their lives at risk when the waste is collected. 

Homeless people are seeking shelter in waste containers

The Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) is therefore working in partnership with Biffa and the Open University (OU) to undertake research into the issue.

This follows research published in 2014 by CIWM, Biffa and rough sleeping service StreetLink, which revealed that a fifth of waste industry professionals had reported finding people sheltering in bins.

The 2014 report provided recommendations for the waste management sector, which included ensuring that each organisation has a health and safety policy in place, and that waste collection crews are vigilant and know who to contact if they find someone sleeping rough in waste containers.

Homelessness is estimated to have doubled since the publication of the 2014 research, resulting in increasing numbers of people sleeping rough in bins. In 2016, Biffa revealed that it finds approximately three people sleeping in its waste containers each week.

There have been several fatalities as a result of this – in January 2018, twenty-eight-year-old Jay McLaren was found dead in a recycling plant in Sunderland, and in June 2018, forty-eight-year-old Russell Lane died after getting stuck in a refuse truck in Rochester, Kent

In order to understand the full scale of the problem, the new research team is seeking feedback from waste industry professionals in a survey launched this week, which will be live for four weeks. The full report will be published in the autumn.

Dr Toni Gladding, Secretary of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum and Chair of CIWM’s Health and Safety Specialist Interest Group, who is leading the research at the OU, explains: “There is anecdotal evidence to suggest this is a problem that continues to challenge the waste industry, and we are seeking new responses from as many companies as possible so that we can investigate the true scale of the issue.”

Paul Wright, Group Health and Safety Director at Biffa, adds: “Undertaking this new research will provide fresh insights into the issues and challenges associated with people sleeping in waste containers. By completing this survey, industry professionals will play a fundamental part in helping us to find new ways to prevent people sleeping in bins.”

The survey can be completed on the OU’s website.

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