William Eichler 24 February 2020

Call for ‘urgent action’ to stop people sleeping in bins

Waste companies have called for a collaborative approach to stopping homeless people from sleeping in bins as new figures reveal a 15% increase in the practice over the last half decade.

A report by waste management company Biffa, the Open University and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management has found that 35% of waste companies discovered people sleeping in bins within the last year, compared to 21% in 2014.

The report says that there needs to be a ‘collaborative approach’ amongst waste companies, waste producers, homeless charities and the general public to tackling this dangerous practice.

The study cites Health & Safety Executive data to illustrate the dangers of homeless people seeking refuge in bins. According to the figures, the practice has led to seven known fatalities in the past five years.

‘Urgent action is required now to raise awareness of the dangers of seeking shelter in bins,’ said Michael Topham, chief executive of Biffa.

‘This new research highlights the need not only for the waste industry to take more responsibility for its own practices, but crucially for it to work with its customers to help tackle the issue.

‘We are committed to leading this approach to promote policies and procedures for widespread adoption to prevent further tragedies. We hope this report highlights the issues that we all need to address and acts as a call to action.’

The research found that only 40% of commercial bins in use are fitted with working locks, which is the same as in 2014 despite industry guidelines.

Among a number of recommendations, the report suggests that the relevant authorities ensure bins are secure and inaccessible. They also urge people to contact homelessness charities when a homeless person is found near a bin.

Petra Salva, director of rough sleeping, criminal justice and migrant services at St Mungo’s, commented: ‘Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous for the individual and for our communities.

‘It is vital that Biffa takes the issue of people rough sleeping in bins seriously and is taking a lead in the industry to educate staff, raise awareness and change practice.

‘We welcome the recommendations in this report and believe it will directly help to save lives. Going forward, we are committed to working together so that people in desperate situations can be found, helped and supported back into housing, good health and fulfilling lives.’

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