Strike action involving local authority waste management staff has resulted in an accumulation of waste in public areas, within people’s homes and other premises. It is anticipated that further strikes may take place across Scotland, resulting in more widespread waste accumulation. 

The impact of waste on health is varied and may depend on numerous factors including the nature of the waste and weather conditions that may accelerate decomposition of waste.

If organic waste builds up it can become a risk to human health. Organic waste includes food waste, animal waste (from food or excrement), human waste (including nappies) and manure.

There are some simple precautions which people can take in order to reduce the possible health impacts of waste:

  • When handling waste at home, people should always wash hands thoroughly.
  • Where possible, organic waste and medical waste should be stored in containers.
  • If containers are not available, waste which is likely to rot or decompose should be double bagged.
  • The public should avoid contact with refuse in public areas.
  • The accumulation of waste may increase fire risk so households may wish to consider their fire safety preparedness.

Public Health Scotland has made some recommendations to local authorities to help limit the impact of waste on public health, including the fact that decontamination of public areas where bins have overflowed may be required. 

Last updated: 26 August 2022