Invaluable health and safety research conducted by Glasgow Caledonian University has played a key role in helping a Buckinghamshire resident persuade her local council to rethink its bin collection methods.

The research, conducted by Dr David Thomas, now a lecturer at Middlesex University, and Professor Billy Hare, Director of Glasgow Caledonian’s BEAM Centre, demonstrated the reduced risk of musculoskeletal disorders associated with wheeled bins compared to bags and sacks.

The Buckinghamshire resident, Karen Yexley, a 63-year-old who relies on a walking stick, was in dispute with her local council over changes to the bin collection system which threatened to burden her and her neighbours with the arduous task of lugging waste bags to the roadside for collection.

Distraught, Karen turned to Dr Thomas and Professor Hare for help having been made aware of their research, which provided the evidence she needed to plead her case to the council.

Karen got in touch with the council who listened to what she said and read the research. Following a review of the location and requirements of the property, the council was able to offer an alternative solution. As a result, residents of Chenies now enjoy the convenience and safety of bin-to-lorry collection, sparing them the physical strain and potential injury of handling heavy bags.

Speaking about the resolution, Karen expressed her relief and gratitude in a letter to the academics, saying: “This would never have been possible had you both not helped me.”

Dr Thomas and Professor Hare’s research not only provided a solution to Karen’s immediate problem but also highlighted the broader importance of evidence-based decision-making in public policy.

Professor Hare said: “By leveraging our expertise and findings, Karen was able to advocate effectively for herself and her community, ultimately securing a positive outcome. This is why we do research of this nature here at Glasgow Caledonian University. We aim to transform lives for the better.”

He added: “The negative health effects of using sacks, baskets and boxes for waste collection have been known for some time now, but research prior to ours had been purely lab-based, which some found difficult to relate to their day-to-day work. Our study used real-life field data for the first time, to dispel any doubts held by local authorities over the benefits of using wheeled bins.”

Dr Thomas said: “With an ageing population, and the challenges this gives both to employers and the public, we need to become more sustainable in how we design our waste-collection systems to reduce musculoskeletal injuries. It’s pleasing that this was resolved to the benefit of all parties.”

A Buckinghamshire Council spokesperson said: “Buckinghamshire Council is always ready to listen to residents who have a particular concern about an issue. In this instance, after communicating with Ms Yexley and other residents, we were able to reach a conclusion that assisted her and was also manageable by our refuse crews. As a council we will continue to offer modified collections using sack collections where required, determined by the location and requirements of a property.”

The research papers can be found here: