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'Flushable' wet wipes fail water industry tests 16/11/2018

All wet wipes sold as "flushable" in the UK have so far failed the water industry's disintegration tests, the BBC has found.

This means they do not break down sufficiently to allow them to be harmlessly flushed down the toilet. But because they disappear when they are flushed away, people assume they are safe in doing so.

In reality, water companies say they end up getting caught up in filters or contribute to giant, fatty buildups known as fatbergs which block sewage pipes.

Removing these blockages costs £100million a year, according to Water UK, the main water and sewer companies' trade body. 

Wet wipes are sold for everything from make-up removal to surface cleaning. Most importantly when it comes to flushability, they're available as moist toilet tissue.

BBC Radio 4's Costing The Earth looked into the issue and its investigation claims all wet wipes sold as "flushable" in the UK have so far failed the tests, which are conducted by scientists at WRC, a water-testing laboratory in Swindon.

Manufacturers insist their test is adequate and say sewer blockages are caused by people putting non-flushable wipes down the toilet.

Tony Griffiths, from United Utilities, told the BBC the situation was "extremely frustrating" and that the money being spent on fixing problems could be going towards reducing customer bills. 

There are some wipes that pass both tests, but none are currently being sold in the UK, according to WRC. 

Matt Wheeldon, a director at Wessex Water, is calling for a ban on wipes being labelled as "flushable", telling the BBC they were a "complete scourge on our society".

The government has said it is working with manufacturers and water companies to develop a product that can be safely flushed.

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Pattenmakers search for 2019 Young Manager in FM Award winner 01/11/2018

Livery company the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers has opened nominations for its annual Young Manager Award, and is looking to find a talented young facilities manager deserving of the training and development opportunities it provides.

The award is open to managers aged 21-32 working in the FM sector, who must be nominated by their employer. The deadline for submission of entries is 14 November, and shortlisted finalists must be available for interview on 23 November in London. 

Nomination forms and further information about the Young Manager Award are available from www.internationalworkplace.com/pattenmakers

The Pattenmakers is one of the historic Livery Companies of the City of London with its origins dating back to the 14th century. In recent years the Company has become the Livery home of the facilities management industry and of professionals from across the built environment sector in addition to its traditional membership from City institutions and the footwear industry.

The Young Manager Award enjoys industry-wide support, including from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who said: “RICS is delighted to support the Pattenmakers’ Young Manager Award. RICS promotes the highest professional qualifications and standards and continuing professional development is core to our values. We hope that this award will enable and encourage the winner to reach their full potential in the facilities management profession.”  

The winner of the prestigious Pattenmaker Young Manager Award receives expert support to create a varied and bespoke personal development programme, including off-site courses and a programme of customised work placements designed to broaden their perspective. The training programme will be developed in full consultation with the winner’s line manager or employer. There is also a small financial bursary kindly donated by FM consultancy Glennister Associates.

The Award will be presented to the winner by the Lord Mayor of London at the Pattenmakers’ Annual Banquet held at the Mansion House in January 2019. The winner will also receive the Freedom of the Company, with the opportunity to apply for the Freedom of the City of London at a later stage.

This is an ideal opportunity to encourage the development of enthusiastic and deserving young people within the FM industry. Employers may nominate more than one young manager from their organisation. 


The judges are looking for a young manager who:

  • is enthusiastic about a career in FM or the built environment;
  • can demonstrate their commitment to their own personal development;
  • has potential for future promotion to a senior role;
  • has a high standard of professional ethics;
  • has or has had managerial responsibility (people, facilities or other resources);
  • can demonstrate initiative;
  • displays leadership behaviours inside and outside of the workplace;
  • is aged 21-32; and
  • has the support of their director (or equivalent).

Nominations should be made on the application form, together with a letter of support from the line manager who puts them forward. 

For further information about the Award please contact David Sharp on 07787 523138 or email david.sharp@internationalworkplace.com

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Business rates cut for public toilets 30/10/2018

Owners will no longer pay business rates on public toilets, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, has announced in his Budget speech.

The relief will apply to any standalone facilities available for public use, whether publicly or privately owned.

Public toilets have traditionally been liable for business rates in the same way as other non-domestic premises such as shops and offices.

Local authorities are not legally required to provide toilets, so they are often closed as councils look to cut costs.

The British Toilet Association has estimated that 40% of public toilets have disappeared in the past decade.

Figures obtained by the BBC have found that more than 600 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by councils since 2010 and in 37 areas major councils no longer run any.

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London Zoo fined after keeper falls from step ladder while cleaning 29/10/2018

London Zoo has been fined £40,000 after a keeper fell from a faulty ladder while cleaning inside a hawk aviary.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that Angelina Lawson suffered neck injuries in the accident while removing droppings from a shelf under the birds' perches. The ladder she was using had been consigned to a skip after it was found to have a fault, but there was no labelling on it to warn against its use. She was working at a height of 2.5 metres when the ladder gave way and she fell to the ground.

The Zoological Society of London, the charity which runs the zoo in Regent's Park, appeared in court and admitted two breaches of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £8,000 in costs.

In delivering his sentence, District Judge Richard Blake said: "Ms Lawson had not received any training with regard to the use of ladders during her four years of employment. The lack of that training was a direct cause of the accident.

"As a result of this incident enquiries took place and this resulted in the prosecution before me. Ms Lawson had completed four aviaries using the ladder and was on the last one when the fall occurred.

"Whilst cleaning the surface the ladder collapsed beneath her. She was advised by a doctor she sort to take rest for concussion.

"She attended hospital the next day for an x-ray which showed swelling of the soft tissue and also diagnosed with concussion which can last up to a month."

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Cleaners among those most likely to benefit from AI   26/10/2018

Cleaning is one of the occupations most likely to be improved by artificial intelligence (AI), according to new research.

The survey, run by Censuswide on behalf of London-based law firm Bristows, asked a representative sample of 2,103 people in the UK what they thought about artificial intelligence. 

In a question about the occupations most likely to benefit from AI, factory worker came out top followed by cleaner in second place. Office administrator, accountant/tax professional and delivery person came third, fourth and fifth respectively. 

Journalism was deemed the occupation least likely to benefit from AI, followed by lawyer, chef, care worker and artist.

Other key findings from the research include:

- 62% think they have never been in contact with an AI application

- 50% would not trust AI with their personal data

- 11% consider the Government responsible if something goes wrong with AI

- 42% think the UK Government should regulate AI

- the tasks people think are most likely to be performed by AI are data analysis, monitoring and household tasks

- people are almost evenly split between those who would automate their job, those who wouldn't and those who don't know

- 47.7% of respondent believe AI will (also) have negative effects on society

- younger people are better disposed towards AI than older ones

A whitepaper with all the results can be viewed here.

Chris Holder, head of the AI and Robotics group at Bristows, said: "We have sought to gain a better understanding of the public perception of AI by asking people what their knowledge, attitude and expectations of this emerging technology are, and we hope the insight set out in the whitepaper add to the debate about public trust of AI, which is a crucial one for the industry."

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Life threatening bacteria found on the money you handle everyday 08/10/2018

Two superbugs including MRSA have been found on coins and bank notes, which were examined as part of a study by financial comparison website money.co.uk and the London Metropolitan University to discover what’s really lurking in your wallet.

Dr Paul Matewele, Professor of Microbiology at London Met, and his students took 36 samples from a random selection of all denominations of coins and notes. The microbiologists studied the bacteria in a controlled lab environment over a period of 8 weeks.

19 different bacteria were found across UK coins, polymer £5 and £10 notes and paper £20 and £50 notes, including 2 life threatening bacteria associated with antibiotic resistant superbugs – Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Enterococcus faecium (VRE).

Both bacteria are on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which pose the greatest threat to human health. 

Staphyloccus Aureus (MRSA) can cause common conditions such as boils and impetigo as well as food poisoning, cellulitis and toxic shock syndrome. Enterococcus faecium can cause infections of the abdomen, skin, urinary tract and blood. 

The life-threatening airborne bacteria Listeria was also found on the coins and notes tested. The bacteria can lead to infection which is usually caught by eating contaminated food. The infection can cause food poisoning and even miscarriage. There have been 47 cases of Listeria reported as of June 2018 and 9 deaths.

Bacteria found in faeces was also present on the cash swabbed, which can cause urinary tract infections and septicemia. Bacteria which can cause thrush, nappy rash and diarrhoea was also found.

Dr Paul Matewele said: “One of the most shocking discoveries was finding so many microorganisms thriving on metal, an element you wouldn’t normally expect to see germs surviving on. The bugs have adapted to their environment, resulting in coins becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. 

“People who have compromised immune systems could be most at risk from handling dirty money – if you’re visiting people in hospital who might be vulnerable to infection, you could unknowingly transfer bacteria off your cash which is resistant to antibiotics.”

Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of money.co.uk, added: “We were really shocked when the results revealed two of the world's most dangerous bacteria were on the money we tested.

“We thought the new polymer notes would be cleaner but were stunned to find out even they were growing some life threatening bugs. These findings could reinforce the argument for moving towards a cashless society and might be the nail in the coffin for our filthy coppers. I suspect people may think twice before choosing to pay with cash knowing they could be handed back change laced with superbugs. 

“We’d recommend and remind people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling money to help prevent spreading these harmful bacteria.”

 For the full results please visit: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/revealed-the-life-threatening-bacteria-on-your-cash.htm

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Four schools close due to infestations of false widow spiders 05/10/2018

Four schools in east London have been closed for up to a month after being infested with venomous false widow spiders.

Pest controllers were called in after the arachnids were reported at two primary and two secondary schools in Newham.

False widow spiders have a body length of between 8.5mm and 11mm and resemble the far more dangerous black widow. A bite from a false widow can be painful and cause redness and swelling, but the effects are not life-threatening. 

Rokeby school in Canning Town will remain closed until 29 October. Its headteacher, Charlotte Robinson, informed parents and carers in an email.

She said: “The safety and wellbeing of students and staff must be our priority, so whilst I understand that this may be very inconvenient for you, it is in your child’s best interest to remain at home and not at school."

Robinson said a company hired to eradicate the pests had advised that the process would take up to three weeks. The schools have been told treatment is necessary before eggs start hatching.

Lister community school in Plaistow was the most optimistic: its headteacher, Anthony Wilson, told parents he hoped to reopen on Friday. “These spiders can bite humans and the bite is unpleasant, although it is very rarely serious…There have been no reports of anyone at Lister being bitten by a false widow spider,” he said.

There are different types of false widow. The school infestations are of noble false widows (Steatoda nobilis), which are the most commonly reported of the species.

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Study claims cleaning products are contributing to overweight children 20/09/2018

Common household cleaners and disinfectants may be contributing to the risk of children being overweight, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study analysed the gut flora of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

It found in homes that used disinfectant products on a weekly basis, typically multi-surface cleaners, children had an increase of a gut bacteria called Lachnospiraceae.

One of the authors points to research in animals that found higher levels of Lachnospiraceae have been associated with higher body fat and insulin resistance.

In the study, babies in homes where disinfectant cleaners were used frequently, were more likely to have a higher body mass index and be either overweight or obese by age 3. 

Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

Researchers say more needs to be done to investigate a possible link to household cleaners. 

Critics say the study fails to look at diet and when foods were introduced and in what amounts.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) has issued a statement in response to the study.

Richard Sedlak, ACI executive vice president, technical & international affairs, said: "We are disappointed at the sensational claims made by the researchers in this study.

“Proper use of household cleaners and disinfectants is an important contributor to infection control and healthy homes. These products are trusted by families to effectively clean, sanitise and disinfect areas of their homes, reducing opportunities for children at these young ages to suffer significant illnesses. This point was one of many overlooked factors in the reported study.

“Based on our scientific and technical review, the assumptions made by the researchers don’t really hold up. There were notable limitations in the research, as reported by the Journal’s editors, along with a study design that ignored all interventions in the children’s lives between 3 months and 3 years of age, and it did not account for ‘the timing of food introduction and child diet'.

“Coming off a deadly flu season in 2017-18, it is a crucial reminder that proper use of EPA-registered disinfectants plays an important role in helping prevent the spread of flu. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises on its website: “Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.”

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Brits still turn their noses up at public toilets 17/09/2018

Laminate manufacturer Formica Group has announced new findings from its in-depth research study into how Brits feel about using toilets outside their own home.

Almost three quarters (71%) of people surveyed don’t like using public toilets. This is because they find them unhygienic (68%), smelly (68%), poorly equipped (54%) and lacking in privacy (41%). Women are more reluctant when it comes to using public toilets than men. While 78% of women are reluctant to use a public loo only 64% of men gave a similar response. Alarmingly, half of all women and 42% of men are commonly ‘caught short’ due to a lack of toilet facilities.

Public toilets that are more earthenware than porcelain throne are also an issue with 67% of UK adults (and three quarters of women) avoiding using toilets because they look dirty. Most brits also take a hands off approach when it comes to public facilities with 70% of women and 63% of men saying they avoid touching surfaces in public toilets or bathrooms in other people’s homes. 

People often encounter dirty loos with 65% of women and half (52%) of men having cleaned up a toilet when the mess was not their own. 

Respondents were asked where they encountered the dirtiest loos. Almost half of women (44%) and over a third of men (38%) consider train stations to have the grubbiest lavatories. Shopping centres were also considered by almost a quarter (24%) of women to have the dirtiest toilets. However, just over one in ten (11%) men thought their workplace had the dirtiest toilets but only 7% of women complained of the same issue. 

It’s no surprise but women are waiting significantly longer to spend a penny than men are, with 21% of women and over 10% of men regularly waiting between three and four minutes to use a toilet. Women find the queues longest at shopping centres (15%) and a quarter of men consider sports stadiums to have the worst queues. Half of women (46%) and 36% of men thought shopping centres needed more washrooms. Trains were the next most cited place where there were not enough toilets with just over a third (36%) of people saying more were required. 

A quarter of women (22%) but only 14% of men have avoided using a toilet due to soundproofing concerns, while the same number feel uncomfortable about the gap between the toilet floor and the side of the cubicle in a lot of public loos.

Consumers are keen to see innovation in public bathrooms with 61% wanting hands free flush, 45% wanting ventilation improvements and a third wanting better hand dryers. A third of us (32%) want better sound proofing, and a similar number (29%) want faster flush filling systems. 

38% of Britons have walked into a toilet meant for the opposite sex because the signage was confusing. 

Joe Bell, UK marketing manager, Formica Group, said: “The results paint a picture of grubby facilities, long queues and substandard conditions. There is a lot that facilities providers can do to make their washrooms more pleasant environments; like using quality materials, such as laminate, that are hygienic and easy to clean, as well as by specifying sheet sizes long enough for floor to ceiling cubicles to provide increased privacy. It’s time to flush away these public perceptions and to restore public confidence in the public toilet.”

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Walmart aims for 'zero waste' to landfills by 2025 11/09/2018

Walmart stores in the United States, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom have a sustainability goal of zero waste by 2025. The retailer’s 2018 sustainability report says that by the end of last year, Walmart had already diverted 81 per cent of its US waste and 78 per cent of its global waste from landfills.

Walmart defines 'zero waste' as meeting or exceeding Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) business recognition programme requirements.

“In 2005, Walmart began to look at the interplay of waste and usable materials and to seriously examine our own operations, looking for ways to reduce waste of all kinds,” the company’s latest sustainability report says. “Today we have a deeper understanding of the challenges and are engaging suppliers and customers in pursuit of the circular economy.”

Walmart has reduced food waste by various means, including donating unsold food to local food banks and repurposing inedible food through animal feed and composting. For nonfood waste, the retailer has donated or recycled surplus products, switched to reusable packing containers, and recycled secondary packaging.

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