Using a bin-lock device to protect rough sleepers

Written by: Mark Jenkins | Published:
Mark Jenkins, sales director at Egbert Taylor Group

Innovation has come to represent something of a buzzword.

Read about any company and I am confident that it will be talking about innovation or innovating. And this is no bad thing, of course. In order to succeed – or in some cases, survive – businesses have to innovate.

However, its use is generally in the context of doing things bigger, better, bolder and more efficiently, particularly in the waste industry. Rarely do we see businesses and organisations use innovation as a vehicle in which to deliver something that benefits people – be they end-users, local government or corporate firms – not from a monetary, resource or technological perspective, but from a health and safety perspective.

This, however, is beginning to change. Companies operating in the waste sector are now embracing the responsibility they have when it comes to their role in contributing towards creating safer environments. This refocus must still be aligned with a company’s need to make profit; any assertion to the contrary would be naïve and misleading.

The gulf, however, between what is in the best interest for business and what is in the best interest of the business’s end-user has narrowed.

Manufacturers and service providers are now thinking in broader terms at the research and development phases as opposed to silo thinking, which all too often sees considerations around a product or service’s impact on society stop at the point the service is delivered or the product leaves the factory.

From Egbert Taylor Group’s perspective, health and safety and product development overlapped during a period when rough sleepers – those people sleeping in bins, be they homeless or inebriated – started to become an issue. In fact, I write this merely days since someone sadly lost their life while sleeping in a bin in Ireland.

Egbert Taylor’s Push2Lock is a patented waste-container-locking device that was originally developed to circumvent the problem of padlock theft that many UK councils were experiencing. Given the high content of brass in the padlocks, many were being stolen for their raw material value. This, in turn, was leaving bins open to cross-contamination.

The lock, which operates in the similar way to a car bonnet in that it clicks shut, means that once closed anyone without a unique key, which is only held by collection teams, is unable to enter the unit.

What was once a solution developed to combat lock theft has now become a way in which to prevent people from entering the bins, which appeals to councils responsible for densely populated inner-city areas where rough sleepers tend to be a problem.

Smart security solutions

Similarly, other prominent bin manufacturers and waste solutions providers have developed smart security solutions based around RFID technology, which provide only those designated to use the bin with access; yet another safeguard against rough sleepers.

A solution that Egbert Taylor Group is currently exploring, and one that taps further into concerns around rough sleepers, involves sensor technology and builds on the success of our partnership with a web-based application provider, which enables users to see in real time the fill-level status of each and every bin.

Just as a bin’s fill level, location and position can now be monitored, the technology can theoretically monitor for and detect anything that the client wishes to measure and analyse. It can also establish whether there is anything alive in a bin.

In fact, the technology we’re currently exploring is so accurate that it can determine whether the living object is small, and therefore a possible rat, or large, and therefore human.

What does this mean for waste collection teams? A routine check at the click of a button and from the comfort of an office or anywhere where there is a computer, phone or tablet could alert operatives to anything that is inside a bin that shouldn’t be.

Of course, this level of detection may be a step too far for many local authorities, particularly those where rough sleepers do not pose a problem, and we are only at the beginning of the research and development process ourselves. However, this in itself suggests that businesses are now looking over and above a functional level and more towards a preventative – if not protective – level.

If we step outside of the confines of the business for a moment, I believe that we are moving back towards a more cooperative society; a society where people are becoming more empathetic and compassionate towards others; a little less ‘every man for himself’ and more ‘we’re all in this together’.

Making positive change

In my view this approach is spilling over into the corporate world in as much as solutions that deliver a positive contribution to society are beginning to share equal space with solutions that add value to and help grow a business.

The growing use of technology in sectors such as the waste industry, where technology was traditionally never a pivotal part, is certainly facilitating this and highlights how bins are no longer a tool to simply keep streets clean, but also to keep streets safe.

Not only that, but it also demonstrates how bins now have a societal value far greater than ever before and arguably far greater than anyone could have once imagined.

Mark Jenkins is sales director at Egbert Taylor Group

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