Fortnightly rubbish collections are becoming increasingly common throughout the UK as a way of trying to increase recycling rates.
Although there is evidence to suggest that this method has worked well, there are still many people and organisations that are against fortnightly rubbish collections. A recent report from the World Health Organisation highlighted the dangers of fortnightly rubbish collections in terms of the potential health hazards.
Whether or not you agree with fortnightly rubbish collections it is likely that more council will use them to increase recycling rates. This article will therefore highlight some of the potential health hazards that could be lurking in your bin, and will provide practical advice on how to help minimise these risks.
Northampton University carried out a study into fortnightly rubbish collections which found that there was a ten-fold increase in levels of bacteria when rubbish was left to fester for two weeks instead of one. As well as causing a build up of bacteria, rubbish can also attract flies and vermin such as mice and rats, which can increase the risk of infections.
What are the potential health hazards?
* E.coli - There are various different strains of E.coli which can cause stomach upsets. Some strains, including E.coli 0157 can even be fatal.
* Yersinia - This is a type of bacteria that comes from the same family of bacteria as the Black Death Plague.
* Listeria - The study carried out by Northampton University also highlighted high levels of listeria in the rubbish. Listeria can trigger vomiting and nausea.
* Salmonella - Salmonella was detected during the tests carried out by Northampton University. Salmonella can cause serious stomach upsets.
* Fungi - Decaying rubbish is a good breeding ground for fungi spores which can cause difficulties with breathing.
* Leptospirosis - This causes Weil's disease which is a flu-like illness which can cause kidney failure and be fatal if not treated correctly. This bug can be passed on to humans by handling rubbish which has been urinated on by rats.
* Rat-Bite Fever - As the name suggests Rat-Bite Fever is caught from a rat bit, but also from a scratch. As with Weil's disease it can cause flu-like symptoms and can be fatal if it is not treated properly.
* Hantavirus - This is also carried by rats and can cause chest infections and fevers. It is normally caught through rat droppings and urine, but it can also be caught through inhaling the virus particles.
What can be done to help minimise the potential risk?
When you read the list of potential bugs that could be lurking inside your bin, it is understandable why so many people are against fortnightly rubbish collections.
However there are plenty of steps that can be taken to help minimise the potential risks. For example:
* Minimise the amount of waste you dispose of by recycling as much as possible.
* Prevent flies from being able to enter the bin and lay eggs by keeping the bin lid closed at all times.
* Sprinkling some vinegar in your bin will help to neutralise any odours.
* Double bag food waste and before sealing the bag remove as much of the air as possible. This will slow down the general decomposition of the waste.
* Clean your rubbish bin on a regular basis. This will help to prevent bugs and will also help to neutralise any odours.
* Place some newspaper at the bottom of your bin to soak up any residue from your waste.
* Keep your rubbish bin in a shaded area to prevent the bin getting too hot which can increase the smell and attract flies.