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No health risk in less frequent collections, study finds

Zero Waste Scotland has released the findings of a study on the health impacts of “extended” residual waste collections, which show that the risk of being exposed to germs and pathogens are similar to the levels experienced in weekly or fortnightly collections.

The study found that even though some elements of residual waste, such as microorganism, bioaerosol and gas levels in the bins, were affected by extended collection times (beyond two weeks), they were not at a level that posed a health risk to collection staff or householders.

Zero Waste Scotland said: “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 organisation recommended that local authorities planning to extend the frequency of collections took measures to prevent exposure to microorganisms and gases at source, for example by capturing biodegradable waste in separate, frequent collections and encouraging residents to bag waste rather than placing it loose in bins.

If exposure cannot be prevented the report noted that local authorities “should put suitable measures in place to control it adequately”, such as health screening to identify staff suffering from respiratory illness, promote good hygiene practices and develop working protocols to control exposure.

The full report can be read here.

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