Fortnightly residual waste collections do not lead to health impacts on either householders or operatives, new research has found.
The study entitled Scoping study of potential health effects of fortnightly residual waste collections and related changes to domestic waste was commissioned by the Waste & Resources Action Programme and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. The study reviewed all the available research on the potential health risks associated with waste collection.
It looked specifically at changes in the collection frequency for residual waste from weekly to fortnightly.
The key aim of the study was to establish the concerns which were being raised about the new waste management systems, review what was currently known about those issues including the available mitigation arrangements, and to identify areas for further work.
Sending the report to waste collection authorities in England, WRAP and CIWM are urging them to ensure they give clear advice to householders on how their collection schemes work and how to use them safely and effectively.
WRAP local government services director Phillip Ward said: There is no evidence that changing to a fortnightly collection creates risks that cannot be dealt with by following the straightforward good practice guidance already available. Whatever the collection system, it needs to be well designed and appropriate for the local area.
Particularly in the warmer summer months, it is important that councils remind householders how to keep waste collections safe. This advice could include not keeping food waste in the house for long periods and wrapping it before putting it in the bin.
The study establishes that more research has been carried out on waste treatments than on waste collection systems. It also confirms that as with any waste collection scheme, fortnightly collection schemes can lead to potential health and nuisance hazards if those hazards are not managed properly. For instance, the report states that householders and waste collectors could be affected by the incidence of maggots and flies, manual handling issues related to the weight of the waste containers and the risk of exposure to bacteria, moulds and bioaerosols from both kitchen and garden organic waste materials. The report explains that the repetitive nature of the occupational exposure suggests that these risks could be more significant for operatives. It acknowledges that more work should be done to understand the risks of long term exposure of collection operatives to bioaerosols on their own or in a combination with other airborne pollutants.
CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: Waste collections need to be safe and efficient for both householders and operatives and this study is a valuable addition to existing guidance. It reinforces the need for thorough risk assessments to be carried out and helps to highlight the importance of proper consultation, implementation and communication when councils are making changes to collection schemes.