Austerity Britain: where the homeless seek shelter in bins

Report reveals shocking rise of bin sleepers as one waste worker recounts finding children as young as nine or ten.

Proletarian writers

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What are we to make of the ‘values’ and priorities of a rich country in which human beings are forced to take shelter in wheelie bins?

Proletarian writers

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Dave Pyne, 65-year-old HGV driver recently reported to North Wales Live that, two years ago, he had been tasked with emptying a recycling bin into a crusher in Wrexham.

However, feeling that “something didn’t feel right”, he recalled: “My sixth sense said to check it, so I opened the lid, and as I started to move pieces around, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

“Inside were two young kids sleeping – a boy and a girl. They must have only been nine or 10.

“I woke them up, and they were so scared, they jumped out and ran off. I reported it to social services, but I never heard anything back.” (Two kids found asleep in wheelie bin by stunned worker about to put it in crusher, The Mirror, 2 March 2020)

Mr Payne reported this harrowing scenario to his local radio station in a discussion following a report released by waste management company Biffa, which claimed that there has been a ‘shocking surge’ in homeless people seeking refuge in bins.

The Mirror article also makes clear that Mr Pyne’s experience was by no means a one-off freak incident.

“At least seven people are known to have been killed in the last five years because they were sleeping in bins, according to a health and safety executive.

“From April to December 2019, Biffa employees recorded 109 ‘near misses’ or encounters with people either sleeping in or near its bins.

“The increase in rough sleepers discovered in wheelie bins is being linked to the rise of homelessness across the UK.”

Five years ago, another story was published in the same paper about a 44-year-old rough sleeper who survived two compact cycles by the crushing blade after he was dumped from a wheelie bin into a rubbish truck. (Homeless man survives bin lorry compactor in miracle escape – twice, The Mirror, 9 December 2015)

David Payne concluded his comments on the air with some hard-hitting advice to waste management workers:

“I encourage everyone I work with to always check the bin. You would never forgive yourself if you didn’t, and there was a person inside.

“Once that bin is emptied into the truck, it’s too late. There is a blade inside that cuts through the rubbish. A person would be crushed.”

That this is the state of affairs we have reached in the world’s sixth-richest country is truly shocking – and a damning indictment of the system of monopoly capitalism that even in its heartlands it is incapable of providing the basic necessities for all its people.

It has been interesting to note how quickly since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – an illness that can affect the rich as well as the poor (although it affects the poor disproportionately) – local council leaders who previously wrung their hands over the ‘insoluble’ problem of homelessness have all of a sudden found that it is possible after all to find shelter and food for all those sleeping on the streets of Britain’s biggest cities.

What happens to all those people when the lockdown ends remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: the only way to ensure secure homes for all in the long term – along with guaranteed jobs, pensions, healthcare and education – is for workers to take over the running of society and use Britain’s massive productive forces to meet their needs.

If we take one lesson from the current pandemic, it is that a system in which the majority slave for peanuts (if they can find work at all) so that a handful of parasitic billionaires can amass ever more wealth from the work done by others is unfit for purpose and must be abolished.