The risks of taking shelter or sleeping in waste bins

When people are desperate or not fully aware of their surroundings, after a night out for example, they may sometimes take shelter or sleep in and around waste bins and containers. This is very dangerous and could result in serious injury or fatality. Homeless people are most at risk, but others could also be affected.

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increase in people found in and around bins between 2014 and 2019
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incidents reported by Biffa teams of people sleeping in and around bins in 2020

Download the ‘People In and Around Bins’ toolkit

Share this material with your employees and display it where you have waste bins or containers. The materials explain how to identify if someone is taking refuge in a bin and what to do if they are.

People in and around bins poster

Click to download

People in and around bins research paper

Download the Reality Check publication conducted by The Open University

What can I do?

Prevention is always the preferred solution, making sure your bins have a working lock, are stored somewhere secure, and are well-lit will help to discourage people from using them for shelter. If you suspect someone is sleeping in your bins please contact Streetlink, a service that helps people to get local support, or another local organisation for rough sleepers. You can find out more about Streetlink.

If you are a Biffa Customer please contact our Customer Service Team on 0800 601 601. They will make the local depot and driver aware of the situation so that they take extra steps to ensure there is no-one in the bin before emptying it.


StreetLink is a website, mobile app, and phone service for England and Wales, which enables people to send an alert when they see someone sleeping rough to connect that person to local support services that can help to end their homelessness. You can find out more about Streetlink.

StreetLink app instructions
StreetLink App

Simon Community Scotland

Biffa also works with Simon Community Scotland to prevent people sleeping or sheltering in and around waste bins and containers. Simon Community Scotland provides information, advice, support, and accommodation to people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in Scotland, and in 2022 they helped over 8,000 people. 

If you live or work in Scotland and see someone at risk of rough sleeping, please call Simon Community Scotland’s 24 hour Helplines - Glasgow 0800 027 7466 or Edinburgh 0808 178 2323. The charity will send their Street Teams out to offer support.