Healthy recycling

Recycling bags and boxes put out with household and business rubbish could lead to an increase in health problems for refuse collectors, Professor Billy Hare warned.

In a joint study with the University of Greenwich, a GCU-developed body-mapping technique was used to study the effects of lifting a range of rubbish containers by workers over four years.

The study revealed that while wheelie bins are beneficial to refuse collectors, all other types of separated waste are causing long-term musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) across the UK.

Researchers used an Average Pain Count to examine lower-back, shoulder, neck and upper-spine complaints developed by refuse workers collecting either wheelie bins, rubbish sacks, recycling bags and boxes.

They found wheelie bins were least likely to cause pain and boxes most likely - and called for them to be discontinued by local authorities to protect the long-term health of workers “as a matter of urgency”, particularly in an ageing workforce.

Professor Hare, who headed the GCU team during the study, said: “If we want our refuse workers to work more productively for longer, and with fewer health problems, then the use of wheeled bins is an essential starting point."

The research’s results were published by the journal Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).