Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Recycling truck driver not to blame for cardboard bale death, says union

The driver of a recycling truck is not to blame for the death of a homeless man who police believe was sleeping in a commercial rubbish bin, a union says.

The body of Te Awamutu man Daniel Bindner was found in a cardboard bale at a Hamilton recycling plant on Tuesday, a day after he was reported missing.

Police investigating the unexplained death believe the 40-year-old father-of-three may have been collected along with the bin's contents by a recycling truck, before his body was transported to Hamilton.

First Union assistant general secretary Karl Andersen likened the situation to a train driver faced with a pedestrian on the tracks. "They get pretty traumatised. They can't do anything about it."

Recycling trucks use two forks to lift the skip, often a metal cage or plastic bin, which is then tipped upside down.

Once the contents are emptied into the truck they are compacted almost immediately.

"All they do is drive up, put those loading forks into it, lift it and it drops into the back and they push a button and it compacts it. You would have absolutely every reason to think the only thing inside it is rubbish."

Mr Andersen said it was not feasible to expect a driver to look in every rubbish bin before collection.

"The poor old driver would have absolutely no idea that someone was asleep inside it. It does make you wonder though whether there should be a lockable lid on it."

That would mean the driver would need to unlock every bin first. At present most of the commercial bins do not have lids.

The last known image of Daniel Bindner. Photo / Supplied
The last known image of Daniel Bindner. Photo / Supplied

He said it was likely police would know who the driver was and he recommended victim support.

"I guess they're just going to have to support that person and make sure that person is fully away that they have no blame in the whole thing. There's no blame whatsoever because there's absolutely no requirement to go and look through a container of rubbish before you tip it."

Mr Bindner had been working on dairy farms in the region before recently being made redundant. At the same time his marriage broke down.

Police said his children were aged 5, 7 and 16.

The tragedy comes just six months after a Hamilton bar worker had a narrow escape when he fell asleep on cardboard in a skip after a late night out drinking.

The part-time kitchen hand woke up and banged on the truck alerting the driver.

The Herald understands the bar worker was left traumatised by the incident.

Many similar deaths and some lucky escapes have been reported internationally including in the United States, England, Ireland and Australia.

In 2014 a homeless man was crushed by a refuse truck compactor when he was collected while sleeping in a skip in Cairns, but the man survived.

A homeless Polish man living rough in Dublin was not so fortunate in 2013 and neither was New Zealand teacher Scott Williams who fell asleep in a small skip after a pub crawl in Brighton in 2009.

Mr Williams, 35, a maths teacher and rugby coach, had just secured British citizenship according to the Daily Mail when he was killed by the rubbish truck after it collected the contents of the communal bin.

In Bristol a homeless man was caught on CCTV footage being tipped into a rubbish truck from a commercial bin, with the confused man standing up moments later.

Fortunately the driver saw the man, via a camera installed in the truck, seconds before using the compactor.

Homeless people sleeping in bins is a rising issue in the United Kingdom.

UK Waste management company Biffa reported 175 people discovered in its bins there last year, 144 more than the previous year.

It's not clear if New Zealand refuse trucks have cameras.

Waikato Police have not said which company may have collected Mr Bindner or if they know which bin he was in.

They were today still piecing together Mr Bindner's last movements after appealing for sightings from the public.

Mr Bindner was last scene at McDonalds in Sloane St, Te Awamutu at 11pm on June 21.

A spokeswoman said police were still concentrating their efforts on the Te Awamutu central business district.

- NZ Herald

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