New wheelie-bins give pensioners a clean break

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The Independent Online

A growing number of elderly people in West Yorkshire are in hospital with broken limbs after falling into new council wheelie-bins.

In Pontefract, where the large grey bins replaced conventional dustbins several months ago, there has been a "significant" rise in wheelie-bin related incidents. In attempts to clean the bins, pensioners have fallen across or into the bins or been knocked over by them.

Staff at the fracture clinic of Pontefract General Infirmarynoticed a larger number of old people coming in with fractures to arms and legs and discovered that the injuries were linked by close encounters with the bins, which have two and a half times the capacity of their old ones.

Bridget Gill, marketing manager of the infirmary, said that there were three ways in which old people were injuring themselves. "Many people fractured their wrists by standing on something and then leaning into the bin and toppling over on to it," she said.

"There was one chap who clambered into a bin to stamp down the rubbish and fractured his ankle in the process. And people trying to move the bins in a strong wind get knocked over. There's a wide variety of injuries."

Wakefield council introduced the wheelie-bins in June and sent round a leaflet explaining its advantages and advice on cleaning it. "Try putting newspaper in the bottom to absorb any moisture. The smooth plastic sides are easy to wash and putting the bin on its side will help tackle the job," it read.

Ms Gill said that elderly people had been disregarding the guidance: "They were told not to put themselves in a position of danger. They were simply not following instructions."

She did not know why Pontefract had become a hot spot for wheelie-bin victims: "It may well be prevalent in other places but maybe they don't talk about it so much," she suggested.

John Skidmore, Wakefield's cleansing services manager, said he was "not aware of any particular problems regarding injuries to members of the public as a result of the wheeled-bin system of refuse collection".

He stressed that the public must follow instructions given to clean their bins safely, but said that anyone with a particular problem should contact their wheeled-bin helpline.

Whether that is before or after they end up in the bin, he did not specify.