Daniel Coulon, chair of the National Association of Wheeled Bin Washers, reports.
For the last 30 years local councils and waste contractors have been issuing the public and businesses across the UK with wheelie bins. Ranging in size and colour, with different guidance as to what type of waste that you can place into them, there are now over 40 million bins in operation around the country.
But while they have proven to be a fantastic means of both collecting and disposing of domestic and commercial waste, they do collect spills and residues which emit offensive odours, look an eyesore and spread germs and bacteria. This has especially been the case in areas that have gone to the infamous alternate two weekly bin emptying.
So, who’s responsibility is it to keep them hygienic for your customers, staff or your own family?
Well, the answer to is quite straight forward, it’s yours. You don’t own the bins, and your council or waste collector are obliged to empty them, but it is usually down to the householder or business to maintain them. And if it is not in your contract with your waste contractor to clean or regularly replace your bins, then they are not obliged to do it - and you may even find that despite being in the cleaning sector yourself that your staff are neither trained or insured to do it.
As a result, there has been a boom in small local firms and franchises, including our members, who - for a modest fee - will take on this time consuming and unpleasant task for you for. These companies use bespoke equipment with capabilities to wash commercial and residential bins. They use approved biodegradable chemicals and recycle the waste water before removing it off-site and disposing of it responsibly and legally at a registered drop-off point.
But, as ever, when there is rapidly growing specialist market mixed with a degree of customer ignorance, we have seen a number of unlicensed and uninsured operators who will tip bins up in the street and blast them with a pressure washer. This sends the contents of the bin, plus often unapproved harmful chemicals, all over the road and down rain gullies - where they then proceed to flow to rivers, lakes and out to sea.
As an industry which is striving to literally clean up its act, we believe the whole of the cleaning sector needs to take responsibility for the correct cleaning of wheeled bins - and educate both domestic and commercial customers in the process.
If you employ a bin washer, and want to make sure it is legitimate, it needs to have a Lower Tier Waste Carriers License from the Environment Agency. It also needs public liability insurance and, most importantly, a ‘legal consent to discharge waste water’ issued by the regional water utility.
After all, you wouldn’t employ the services of a local waste collector to take large household items like old mattresses and white goods away if you knew they were going to drive around the corner and dump them in the street, so why would you do the same with someone washing out you or your client’s bins? Further, you are responsible for the work that is carried out at your property, or on the roadside. So, if an unlicensed third party causes pollution or injury to the public you are likely to be liable.
So next time you look upon a row of blue, green, yellow, red, black, purple, orange or even bright pink wheelie-bins, spare a thought for those of us who are battling to ensure they are cleaned professionally and responsibly by approved operators. We are proud to say that many such operatives are members of our association, and you can find out more on our website.