Pest control is big news in the waste industry, particularly around spring time, where the problem can be more easily monitored and controlled before the heat of summer comes. It is around this time of the year to think about organising a system for setting up a pest control plan of action. During the depths of winter, the climate normally fends growing populations off with the cold and wet weather. However, as soon as March and April arrives, so does the risk of infestations and colonisations of vermin, bugs and animals. There are many ways of controlling pests in the waste industry – you just have to know what you’re dealing with, get on top of the problem and contact a professional to provide advice and carry out the job as soon as the issue is discovered.
A statutory nuisance
All industries have a problem with pest control to some extent. However, the waste industry is particularly alluring to insects, scavenging birds and vermin due to dark, damp corners to shelter in, lots of material to feed and nest build and huge airy outbuildings to roam around in. According to 79(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the government defines a statutory nuisance as “any insects emanating from relevant industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance”.
If the pest problem is out of control at your site, anyone affected – residential neighbours, visitors or health inspectors – are well within their rights to get an abatement order set in motion. An abatement notice will:
- require you to reduce or stop the nuisance
- stop or place restrictions on your operations
- require you to carry out work to stop the nuisance from reoccurring.
Most waste sites will hold a license or registered exemption. It goes without saying that you must comply with its conditions, including any conditions relating to pests. If you break these conditions, you can expect to be penalised with heavy fines or even sent to prison.
We will see what health risks are posed by a wide array of pests over the next two pages, the dangers to building infrastructure and equipment, and the health of onsite and visiting personnel.
The thing with insects is that there are around 20,000 types of them, and they can multiply very quickly. Depending on the type of insect, huge damage can be caused to a building’s infrastructure. Some colonies can be very difficult to spot and determine. Waste sites are an ideal place for insects with a wealth of material to build and lots of areas to nest and hide. Insects can spread disease very quickly and can cause huge health hazards on site. But infestations can be difficult to determine, being so small. A lot of pest control companies offer a free site visit to identification service and will offer advice on what risks they represent, and the best way to go about controlling the problem. There’s a wealth of health problems that can happen – depending on the type of insect onsite.
Tell-tale signs of an insect infestation:
- Visuals of live insects
- Dead insects
- Fecal spotting
- Damaged stock
- Site personnel complaining of bites or itches
Rodents can be the most dangerous type of infestation, being carriers of an impressive array of fleas and diseases. Their nesting can compromise the safety of a building’s structure and they can infest both down on the ground and up along roofs and gutterings. Rodents can be very shy, and will assess any dangers before accessing any open areas. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult to determine whether you have a rodent problem. If you do happen to see a rat or a mouse in the open air, it is normally a sign that they are part of a huge colony. Small colonies are normally left undisturbed.
Rat urine or any water contaminated with it can cause Leptospirosis – otherwise known as Weil’s disease – if it enters a cut or gets into the nose, mouth or eyes. In most cases, this only causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, chills and muscle pain. However, in some cases the infection is more severe and can cause life-threatening problems, including organ failure and internal bleeding.
Tell-tale signs of a rodent infestation:
- Scratches and small marks on stock or equipment
- Chewed and bite damage on property, particularly cables, wires, insulation or wood
- Nests found in corners made from loose fabrics, paper and plastics.
- A stale smell – which can be attributed specifically to rats and mice.
- Scratching, pawing and gnawing sounds particularly at night when work has finished
Bird infestations are the most easily spotted. They are the least timid of all waste site pests and can quickly be identified. They can also be quite aggressive and harbour lice and diseases. There are some birds – generally wild birds – and their nests and eggs are protected by the Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981, so special care is needed to identify the type of birds who have taken nest. There are rules in place that allow the control of the birds using non-lethal methods. Pigeons, gulls, ravens and crows are the most common avian pests.
Bird droppings, or guano, on waste sites can cause serious problems. By breathing in dust or water droplets containing contaminated bird droppings can lead to several diseases, including Psittacosis which is a flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.
Tell-tale signs of a bird problem:
- Visual sighting
What you can do to minimise the problem
Odours are a massive attraction to pests. Minimise odours by having a quick turnover of waste on site where possible.
Stored water can also act as a draw for pests. Repair dripping pipes, cover containers of water and level floors to prevent puddles forming. Good drainage systems are also a necessity for a clean waste site.
Keep regular checks on holes and gaps in floors, doors and walls – both on outbuildings and office buildings. Rodents can chew through a lot of materials quite quickly, so make these inspections part of a habitual routine.
Install anti-insect units such as electronic fly killers, glue boards and light attractants in your buildings.
Install traps for mice and other rodents. Although these might not solve the problem, they might give you an idea as to the extent of the problem – if you have a successful run of traps, you might get an understanding that there is quite a large population to control.
Any pesticides or chemicals that you use personally to control rodents or other pests at your site need to be checked in order that they do not cause land or water pollution. Professional companies will do this as standard, but it’s important to evaluate any risks before implementing any chemical deterrents yourself.
Keep on top of pest control admin
Set up, and stay on top of, a pest management plan to control any pests affecting your site. Pest control can only be successfully achieved with a good management plan in place. Nominating someone to be in charge of this project allows one point of contact for news, feedback and progress. It also means that the plan can be executed and followed through to its conclusion.
Keep data on how you have organised the management of the pests at your site. Make sure your records include details of any complaints.
Regularly monitor pests at your site.
Keep your operations under control so that they do not attract pests.
Be conscious of your neighbours
If neighbours become aware, or even effected, by your pest control, you may have a serious problem on your hands. This not only means that action will be taken against you, but also that the problem has spiralled out of your control. The nuisance is now not limited to your land, it has spread even further. When this happens, it is even more imperative that action is taken immediately.
At this point, the professionals need to be called in, but there are still some measures that you can take to limit the amount of damage.
Any waste containers, skips and bins should be kept well away from borders shared with neighbours – as well as any site entrance and exits.
Communication is always appreciated. Keep in touch with neighbours regularly and report of action being taken and any progress achieved. Organise open days with neighbours to come and visit your site, and show them the measures that have been put in place to control the problems.
(Image: Katja Schulz)