Bin lorry bosses are calling for action as the number of people found sleeping in bins rises.
At least 11 people died between 2009 and 2015 after being tipped into the back of lorries, with another seven deaths reported in the last five years.
Workers at waste management company Biffa reported 109 near-misses with rough sleepers between April and December last year.
Now a new report from Biffa, the Open University and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management has triggered calls for urgent action and collaboration between waste companies and homelessness charities to protect rough sleepers.
As the number of homeless people has soared in recent years, so too has the number found sheltering in bins – while 21 per cent of waste collectors found people in commercial and domestic bins in 2014, that statistic shot up to 35 per cent in the last year.
Researchers pointed out that people taking shelter in bins is not a winter issue but was found to be a problem year-round.
Biffa chief executive Michael Topham said the report shows that the waste industry needs to “take more responsibility for its own practices” and that the public can play a crucial role in preventing further tragedies by alerting local homelessness workers if they notice a rough sleeper shelter in a bin.
Waste industry employees should receive training around the issue and written policies should be put in place, the report recommended.
It also said bins should be fitted with locks or held in locked areas to stop people accessing them, as well as stickers in a range of languages placed on bins warning of the risk.
Petra Salva, director of rough sleeping, criminal justice and migrant services at homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said: “Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous for the individual and for our communities. It is vital that Biffa takes the issue of people rough sleeping in bins seriously and is taking a lead in the industry to educate staff, raise awareness and change practice.
“We welcome the recommendations in this report and believe it will directly help to save lives.
“Going forward, we are committed to working together so that people in desperate situations can be found, helped and supported back into housing, good health and fulfilling lives.”
Biffa will trial ‘human detection technology’ which can pick up on movement and temperature inside bins as well as having depots team up with local homelessness charities.
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A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable that anyone should have to face sleeping in these conditions in modern Britain. This does not reflect the society we should be and this is why we have committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of this parliament.
“We have also committed a record £1.2bn into funding services for rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless, and have introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act which means councils [can] take action to prevent homelessness before it happens.”