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The benefits – and drawbacks – of recycling

It’s one of those things that almost everyone agrees on: recycling rubbish is better than throwing it away.

Not only does it reduce the size of our landfills, recycling also helps to lower the energy needed in production processes. But despite its obvious benefits, recycling also carries a hidden element of risk.

Recycling plants hold vast amounts of used plastics, card and metals. Industrial machines are used to process them. If improperly managed, these procedures are potentially very dangerous.

In 2015, a waste recycling plant in Leicestershire was fined £12,000 by the health and safety executive after a worker suffered severe injuries to his legs after becoming trapped while clearing a blockage to a cardboard baler.

And in 2016, five men died at a recycling plant in Birmingham after a wall supporting a pile of scrap metal collapsed upon them.

It’s not just employees and contract workers who are at risk. Recycling plants also have a duty to all visitors on site, whether invited or not. Given that they house potentially valuable materials, recycling plants can attract thieves looking to load up on scrap metals.

Recycling plants must take reasonable steps to make their premises safe for all, especially from foreseeable on-site dangers

Despite these risks, embedding a safety-conscious mindset in the industry is harder than you might think. Rates of injury and fatality remain stubbornly high.

According to the Health & Safety Executive, the industry still accounts for 2.6% of reported workplace injuries and 2.2% of fatalities – despite employing just 0.5% of the country’s workforce (as of 2013/14). Trade journal Recycling Waste World called these figures ‘unacceptable’.

Clearly, the risk of accident in recycling are both real and persistent. Many of our clients operate within this world, succeeding in providing a safe workspace despite the dangers.

With the appropriate systems, control and professional guidance, we give our brokers the tools they need to help their clients minimise their risks.

If you’re looking to place recycling risks, get in touch and see how we could help.