With winter fast approaching, coupled with Christmas Party season, we’re once again launching our annual joint appeal with homelessness charity The Whitechapel Centre, highlighting the dangers of people sleeping in bins. There have been several fatalities over the years due to rough sleepers seeking refuge in commercial bins. Luckily, we haven’t experienced any such fatalities, but it is a very real problem within the waste industry. We’ve been taking part in the latest research, led by the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) to assess the scale of homeless people sleeping in bins. The last research into the issue was published in 2014 and revealed a fifth of workers in the waste industry had reported finding people sheltering in bins. Homelessness is estimated to have doubled since that study was published, so we’re now awaiting the results of this latest research.

All our drivers are fully trained to check the bins before they’re emptied, our trucks are equipped with emergency stop activation technology and cameras, so the drivers can see exactly what’s going into the back of them, and all our containers in and around the Liverpool area are adorned with stickers warning of the dangers of sleeping in bins, along with contact details for The Whitechapel Centre. Our drivers see people sleeping on the streets every single day, so to re-launch the campaign this year, Julianna Petkovic from the charity joined Sam on the early morning Liverpool route, to get a closer look at the issue and to see what the drivers see before the city wakes up. She also got a closer look at how the machinery in the back of the truck works to compress all the waste, to demonstrate what would happen should anyone end up in the back after sleeping in a bin. In the words of Sam, our Liverpool trade waste driver “You wouldn’t be getting out of there, at the very best, you’d have serious crush injuries, at the very worst, you’d be dead.”

Within minutes of the our truck arriving in the city centre, Julianna and Sam saw the first rough sleeper, a woman. A quick call from Julianna to The Whitechapel Centre’s dedicated phone line will ensure the outreach workers know, so can make their way there. Minutes after that, more people spotted sleeping in doorways and tents. Cue more calls to the Whitechapel Centre’s outreach workers phone line, which is manned 24 hours a day. This year, the campaign’s taking a double pronged approach, as along with the dangers of sleeping in bins, the charity wants more people to be saving the number into their phones and making that call. The number is 0300 123 2041, and it takes less than 20 seconds to make the call. It goes direct to The Whitechapel Centre’s outreach team and could save a life. The number features on the side of Gaskells main truck on the Liverpool route, to raise awareness and in the hope people will see it and save the number into their phones.

Julianna from The Whitechapel Centre said “Being out on the bin truck from 6am, I saw for myself the increasing number of people sleeping on Liverpool’s  streets, and made at least six calls in one hour. All you need to do is call 0300 123 2041, tell us where you’ve seen the rough sleeper and what their condition is. Our outreach team will then engage with them and try and encourage them to use our services. We really need to know about people sleeping rough, and would rather have five calls about one person, than no calls about anyone. We offer a 24 hour service, so there’s no reason for people to be sleeping rough in the City. We try and find people suitable accommodation, but if we can’t accommodate them that day then Labre House offers an emergency solution, so no-one has to sleep outside. It’s really simple to make the call, it takes less than 20 seconds, and it could save someone’s life.”

Gaskells Commercial Director Denise Banks said “We’re proud once again to be working with The Whitechapel Centre, highlighting the dangers of people sleeping in bins. Safety is at the forefront of everything we do, which is why we have so many procedures in place to make sure no one ever ends up in the back of our trucks, but we would like to ask businesses to play their part too by making sure their large commercial bins are locked. It’s particularly important to highlight it at this time of year, it’s getting colder, and a bin full of dry cardboard, with a lid provides shelter and warmth. Also, Christmas parties present a risk too, because in some instances people on nights out have decided to sleep in bins, but make no bones about it, it can kill. We’re also delighted to be displaying the Whitechapel Centre’s number very prominently on our Liverpool truck, in the hope more people will use the phone line to report a rough sleeper.”

Click to read more about The Whitechapel Centre