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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Bin deaths concerns

September 09 2015
A lorry driver is worried about the risk homeless people are taking.
A bin lorry driver has come forward with his worries about the risk homeless people are taking by sleeping in bins.

Jeff Gridley, who has worked for waste management company Veolia in Croydon for 16 years, said though he and colleagues have been trained to be aware of the issue, he is extremely concerned.

Now, the volunteer with Nightwatch, a homeless charity in the area, is working to help publicise the risks with the help of a new poster campaign.

“Our company gave us a talk on the dangers and what to look for – people sleeping in and around the bin areas, sleeping bags put down, bags that could be someone’s belongings,” he said.

“But those bins are actually really heavy – they’re anything from a couple of hundred kilos up to half a ton – so if someone was sleeping behind a bin and you were to roll over them you could badly injure somebody. If someone was asleep in the bin and you tipped it into the back of the dustcart there would be no going back I’m afraid.”

Grindlay, who takes soup and coffee to homeless people in the local area while volunteering with Nightwatch, said there was a need for a more high profile campaign to make people aware of the risks.

Two years ago he spent five nights sleeping on the streets of Croydon, raising £5,500 for the charity.

He said: “I had no money and no telephone. All I had was a second-hand sleeping bag from Nightwatch, and I slept rough on the streets of Croydon like anybody else,” he added.

“This was in January, and it was absolutely pouring down with rain and freezing cold. Just trying to stay dry and warm for five days was very, very hard.”

Last year research by the Chartered Institution of Waste Management, waste and recycling company Biffa, and rough sleeping service StreetLink found one in five waste management workers had found someone sleeping in a bin over the last year.

Almost half of the people found were discovered only once the process of emptying the bin had started – two out of five were discovered when the bin was lifted, but almost one in six was found only when they were tipped out, narrowly missing serious injury or death.

Following the deaths of several homeless people, the Pavement has also campaigned on the issue, releasing posters and graphic cartoons to warn its readers of the risks.

Jad Adams, who chairs Nightwatch, is also worried. He said: “We are concerned that homeless people who are taking shelter in large waste disposal bins can be picked up by the mechanical grab and ’poured’ along with the waste into waste disposal vehicles.

“The contents are then crushed down which is, of course, a life-threatening danger for anyone in there. The noise of the crusher makes it difficult for anyone outside to hear cries for help.

“It has been the case that only when the vehicles are emptied is it realised that there was a person in there. This is, of course, a tragic event for the person who has been crushed, but it is an awful thing too for the waste teams to witness. It is in everyone’s interest to prevent this from happening.”

The leaflet is free (© Nightwatch) and available in Polish and English. Email for the pdf.