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New research has concluded that the widespread use of recycling boxes for both domestic and commercial users is to blame for a large rise in back pain among refuse collectors. This has caused some experts to even suggest that recycling boxes should be banned.


Researchers from the University of Greenwich surveyed 200 refuse operators over a four-year period to try and discover whether modern refuse collection practices caused any health problems.

They found that wheelie bins were fine, but boxes that had to be lifted caused lower back pain. The research also noted that many refuse collectors were not young and this increased the number of injuries.


Dr. David Thomas from the University of Greenwich said: “The findings of this research present a timely opportunity for organisations to consider how they protect their workforces. Rather than organisations focusing on generic ‘capability’ for a ‘fit youngster’ they need to consider how they accommodate an ever-increasing ageing workforce when developing systems of work.”


Refuse workers wear gloves, protective overalls and other workwear that can prevent injury from sharp objects in the rubbish, but these obviously do not prevent injuries caused by lifting heavy boxes.


The IOSH Environmental Management Group has found that 80% of injuries in the industry are due to collecting recycled rubbish.


This research is one of many studies that have found a link between back pain and the awkward posture required by some work procedures. All workers required to manually lift heavy objects need proper safety training and equipment.


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