Man Found Dead At Avonmouth Waste Plant “Slept In Bin”

The inquest into a man who was found dead at a waste recycling plant in Bristol has found that the man is thought to have slept into a waste container, following being refused entry to a homeless shelter.

An inquest into the death of Matthew Symonds (pictured), 34, heard he had been staying at Booth House in Swindon.

After being turned away from the shelter at 3am, dues to the hostel stopping admittance at 11pm, Symonds was last seen on CCTV at 03:51.

His remains were found at 10:46 on 1 August at the Biffa plant in Avonmouth.

The jury at Salisbury Coroner’s Court heard Symonds had been a drug user who had taken heroin that day. He had just been released from prison and was staying at the Salvation Army hostel.

A support worker said he had been told to return at 08:00 on 1 August and he left with no trouble.

“On this bin I pulled up within 10ft or 15ft of the bin, did a walk around, checked the bin, moved a pallet out of the way that was in front of the bin and I noticed there were cages behind the bin”

Later that morning a Biffa vehicle arrived and emptied the industrial container in which Symonds is thought to have climbed into, causing him to fall around 20ft into the back of the truck.

Th driver, Ian Coward, used a hydraulic compressor to crush the new contents before taking it and other collections that day to a recycling company in the town for storage.

Coward said: “You look out for overhead cables, you look out for people in bins, anything to the front, side and behind the bins, and also what’s in the bin.

“On this bin I pulled up within 10ft or 15ft of the bin, did a walk around, checked the bin, moved a pallet out of the way that was in front of the bin and I noticed there were cages behind the bin.

“Inside the bin was a plasma TV box – it was across the width of the bin, from side to side. I only opened the right hand side lid of the bin.

“I didn’t move the plasma TV box because it was quite a way in. That’s all I saw in the bin.

“It’s not that easy because you cannot see what’s right at the back or the bottom […] It’s just a visual check as best you can. You can reach in but it doesn’t reach the bottom of the bin.

“I always bang on the side. I didn’t call out… It’s a built up area, so the noise I made reversing and picking up the bin and dropping it on the concrete base is going to make a lot of noise.

“From inside the cab you tend to have the radio on and you are revving the engine as well to make the process work and it that particular area it is surrounded by shops and it echoes.”

The inquest will now hear evidence from pathologist Dr Russell Delaney on the cause of Symonds’ death.

Timothy Standing, who investigated Symonds’ death for Biffa, said: “Firms are reminded of their duties under the Environmental Protection Act for the security of their waste and it must be kept secure and locked at all times […] They very rarely are.”

“There are warning signs of the danger of death should you climb in on the side of the containers.

“In the last 12 months we have recorded 100 incidents where we found people in waste containers and got them out.”

Sleeping In Bins

CIWM last year partnered with Biffa and StreetLink, a telephone line and website which enables the public to help connect rough sleepers to local services, to raise awareness of the issue of homeless people sleeping in bins. Many people don’t know where to turn if they find themselves sleeping rough.

In an attempt to find shelter and warmth there is some evidence that suggests it is not uncommon for people to sleep in refuse wheelie bins. “The aim of the joint communications campaign with StreetLink is three-fold,” explains Tim Standring, Biffa’s Divisional Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Coach.

Biffa – “We are seeking to raise awareness of the issue; highlight the dangers amongst rough sleepers of seeking shelter in bins; and to encourage waste management workers and their customers to contact StreetLink if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough”

“We are seeking to raise awareness of the issue; highlight the dangers amongst rough sleepers of seeking shelter in bins; and to encourage waste management workers and their customers to contact StreetLink if they are concerned about someone sleeping rough.”

Biffa research found that that people sleeping rough do seek shelter in waste and recycling bins, particularly in cold or wet weather, which is putting their lives at risk and has resulted in a number of fatalities.

Sleeping in refuse containers puts themselves at risk of injury and death, with a worrying 16 percent of people found sleeping in bins only discovered after they were tipped out.

The study has shown that people are most likely, though not exclusively, to be found sleeping in unlocked bins stored at the rear or side of buildings and largely in urban areas. People sleeping rough seek shelter in bins through the night and in particular in cold or wet weather.

Over the last 12 months, nearly a fifth of waste industry professionals who responded to the questionnaire reported finding people sheltering in bins.

The most typical scenario for a recorded incident of finding someone sheltering in a bin was found to be:

  • A homeless person (58%)
  • In an urban area (88%)
  • At dawn, dusk or night (90%)
  • In wet or cold weather conditions (73%)
  • In a 1100 litre bin (65%) with no lock (50%)
  • At the rear or side of the premises (73%)

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