Less Frequent Waste Collections Pose No Greater Health Risk

30-04-14(1)picZero Waste Scotland has published the findings of a study looking at the potential risk to human health linked to reduced frequency collections of non-recyclable waste.

In 2012/13 the Scottish Waste Management Officers Network approached Zero Waste Scotland to request support to appraise options for extended frequency non-recyclable waste collections from householders.

Consultancy support to appraise the potential resource and financial impacts of a number of three or four weekly non-recyclable waste collection options was provided.

The report,‘The potential health impacts of extending the frequency of non-recyclable waste collections’, is intended for use by Scottish local authorities and it is written with them in mind.

“… The conclusion is that the lower exposure of householders and the availability of simple precautions mean the risk for them is little changed from that experienced with existing weekly and fortnightly collections”

“Other UK local authorities and industry partners may find our research of interest,” it states, “however it should be noted that the policy landscape in Scotland varies from elsewhere in the UK.”

The pilot study identified that the analysis should focus on decomposition, microorganism growth and gaseous emissions, during storage in wheeled bins, in both warm and cold conditions.

The pilot study was used to inform the main phase of the study, which commenced in August 2013.

Bins were monitored over an eight-week period to better understand the nature and level of odour/gas and bioaerosol emissions experienced by householders over extended frequency collections.

No Greater Risk

The laboratory analysis findings demonstrate that certain characteristics of non-recyclable waste are affected by collection frequency.

Although householders, collectors and staff at tipping facilities could theoretically be affected by these factors, the conclusion is that the lower exposure of householders and the availability of simple precautions mean the risk for them is little changed from that experienced with existing weekly and fortnightly collections.

The repetitive nature of the occupational exposure to waste collectors and staff at tipping facilities suggests that the risk could be more significant for operatives albeit if properly controlled and a precautionary approach adopted, these issues are unlikely.

The priority for local authorities planning extended frequency collections should be to try to prevent exposure at source by reducing concentrations of microorganisms and gases. Examples discussed in this report include:

Capturing biodegradable waste (e.g. absorbent hygiene products (including nappies) and food waste) through separate, frequent collections.

Promoting good practice measures for storage of waste. Encourage residents to bag waste, rather than placing it loose in bin.

Prevention Measures

If exposure can’t be prevented, local authorities should put suitable measures in place to control it adequately; ensuring that control measures are used and regularly updated.

Examples discussed in the report include:

  • Undertake occupational and environmental monitoring and if necessary identify further controls at tipping facilities to reduce emissions, e.g. improved ventilation and odour control.
  • Promote good hygiene practices and provide health and safety training to staff. Ensure that adequate welfare facilities are provided (e.g. hand wash facilities on the vehicle) and that personal protective equipment is provided and used.
  • Implement health screening and monitoring to identify staff with respiratory illness or sensitiveness.
  • Develop and implement working practices to control exposure e.g. collectors should stay in the
vehicle cab or in a designated area away from the vehicle when non-recyclable waste is tipped.
  • Develop policies for missed collections to limit collection delays, particularly when the service is
bedding in and residents may have difficulty remembering their collection schedule.
  • Advise contractors of extended frequency collections to allow risk assessments to be updated.

For the full report CLICK HERE


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