Rough sleepers seeking shelter in commercial bins

Data recently released by Combined Homeless and Information Network (CHAIN) shows that, between July and September 2018, 3,103 people were found sleeping rough in London. This is a record number for the capital and is increasing.

As winter approaches Southwark Council is working with local businesses to raise awareness of the risks to rough sleepers seeking shelter in large commercial bins during cold and wet weather.

In the UK, between 2009 and 2015, 11 people are known to have died when they were inadvertently tipped into waste collection compacters. There have been no deaths reported in Southwark to date, but we are keen that this doesn’t happen to any of our street population.

The locations most attractive to rough sleepers and with the highest risks are:

  • businesses using bins with a capacity of 660 litres or greater
  • businesses located in areas where rough sleeping is known
  • businesses in areas where there have been previous instances of people being found in waste storage areas and bins
  • businesses that store dry, ‘comfortable’ wastes attractive to those seeking shelter eg paper, card, carpet and textiles
  • businesses that have bin storage areas in quiet locations with low footfall
  • businesses that have unsecured bin stores or bins without locks

Southwark Council, working with Homeless Outreach staff, have created resources for businesses, including:

  • leaflets (pdf, 329kb) with practical advice on how businesses can reduce their risk and better manage bin stores
  • posters (pdf, 41kb)to help staff recognise the signs of rough sleeping, remind them to check their bins regularly and to be extra vigilant during periods of cold weather.  It also details of local outreach and support services to enable reporting of the signs of rough sleeping
  • bin stickers (pdf, 33kb) to remind waste contractors to check bins before emptying them into waste compaction vehicles 

Additional guidance and benchmark standards can be found in the Waste Industry Safety & Health (WISH) guidance.

For more details on the Southwark project contact at Southwark Council’s Regulatory Services

Page last updated: 12 November 2018