Bin strikes ‘real threat to public health’ if rats target rubbish

Bin strikes in Birmingham pose the threat of rat infestation and are a “real threat” to public health, a pest control body has warned.

The National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) said the potential for rat infestation could lead to a range of diseases including salmonella.

The industrial action by Unite concerns a row about alleged cash handouts to staff at the GMB union, who did not take part in strikes during 2017.

Birmingham bin men industrial dispute
Bin workers at the Perry Barr Household Recycling Centre (PA)

The 2017 walkouts, starting in June and lasting three months, were triggered by an announcement of job losses.

It caused widespread disruption for residents, who were left with rubbish piled in the city’s streets.

Unite has said if a deal is not agreed by Wednesday, further strikes will go ahead on Thursday and in March.

Birmingham council ‘drinking in last chance saloon’ as Unite reschedules next bin strike

— Unite the union (@unitetheunion) February 26, 2019

If industrial action goes ahead, the NPTA has asked residents to store waste in hard plastic containers to prevent rats from getting to it.

NPTA technical manager John Hope said: “The danger with rubbish piling up on the streets is that you’re encouraging the rat population to leave the sewers and come up to the surface in search of food.

“This situation can be made worse in that the more food and harbourage available, the faster they are likely to breed and potentially come into contact with people.

“We’ve already got a situation whereby many councils are cutting back their collections to fortnightly because they are promoting recycling, which is great. But the situation in Birmingham means you’re likely to have piles of bin bags building up – even in areas with wheelie bins, which are likely to overflow if not collected, and this could encourage rodents to come out to feed.

“Rats aren’t just a nuisance, they are known vectors for a range of diseases including, amongst others, Weil’s disease (Leptospirosis) and salmonella. As a consequence, rodents are a very real threat to public health.

“They are more than just a pest. Rats and mice are a public health pest, and there’s a big difference between that and a nuisance pest.

“Rats can gnaw through plastic but they are much less likely to target tightly contained rubbish.

Birmingham bin men industrial dispute
Rubbish bags piled up on top of bins in Edward Road (PA)

“They are more likely to go for easily available food. Also, ensure that your home is adequately ‘proofed’ to prevent rodents gaining entry. Gaps around pipes and missing or broken air bricks etc are all too common and these enable rodents to gain very easy access

“If it isn’t possible to use plastic containers then unfortunately the other option is to go to your local council tip, which I fully appreciate people don’t want to do in an ideal world.

“But what we really don’t want to see is a build-up of rubbish bags on the side of the road because that is likely to encourage activity – not just from rats but also mice and flies.”