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Cleaning the streets: The impact of COVID-19

17 June 2021

Daniel Took discusses street cleaning and maintenance as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease. 

LOCAL AUTHORITIES are under increasing pressure from residents to ensure that communities are kept clean and tidy. Their concerns have been exacerbated by the pandemic with residents remaining in their local areas due to stay-at-home measures, resulting in them having greater exposure to their community and its upkeep. Whilst the government pathway out of the pandemic will reduce lockdown restrictions, the increased focus from locals on the cleanliness of their communities is likely to remain for the long term. Given this increased pressure on local authorities, ensuring the right products are used is crucial to ensuring effective and efficient street cleaning.

The return to large gatherings is likely to result in increased amounts of litter left on the streets and public spaces within our villages, towns, and cities, which could fuel the increased attention from locals on the upkeep of their environment. Ensuring that this litter is safely collected and disposed of is crucial to ensuring community cleanliness and safety. The pandemic has exposed the number of harmful bacteria and viruses that can be found within our public spaces. Whilst attention has often be centred on indoor spaces such as public washrooms and shared office spaces, bacteria can still exist outdoors, and local authorities must remove litter that might harbour these risks quickly to minimise the problem.

Road sweepers

One way that municipal authorities can do this is by using an effective road sweeper such as Kärcher’s City Sweeper MC 250. Road sweepers clean public spaces and remove potentially harmful litter quickly and efficiently whilst covering large areas of public spaces, collecting far greater amounts of rubbish than could be collected by hand in the same amount of time. Technological developments, such as the automatic coarse dirt flap found on the MC 250, result in a superior cleaning performance by road sweepers, increasing the size of the litter that they can collect. With festivals and community activities set to restart in line with the government guidelines, the ability to swiftly remove plastic bottles, food wrappings, and containers without the need to handle them is crucial to ensuring the long-term safety of municipal staff.

Working collaboratively with another worker outside of the road sweeper can effectively improve cleaning performance. A support cleaner can work in tandem with the driver by using a leaf blower to direct loose rubbish into the path of the road sweeper. Whilst this does not negate the need to cover each area to ensure that it has been effectively cleaned and swept, working in this way prevents the rubbish from being blown away and spread to areas that the local authority does not have control over, such as private land. Operating with two staff members is made easier by the comfortable cabin in the MC 250 that offers spacious seating for two people, allowing them to travel safely to and from each location and allowing more areas to be cleaned daily.

For road safety, the sweeping of loose dirt particles including gravel, leaves and rubbish is key to preventing possible road traffic collisions. Incorrect or poor cleaning can result in vehicles slipping on the road surface in the event of heavy braking potentially endangering public safety. Road sweepers are road legal and therefore able to operate on road surfaces in continuous traffic making them an ideal solution to removing debris. The powerful sweeper brushes on the MC 250 are ideal for the removal of dirt particles. The widespread brushes shift the dirt from the road surface allowing them to pass under the dirt flap where they are vacuumed by the road sweeper and stored in its 2.2m3 storage container. With more cars on the road due to commuters and workers returning to offices and other workplaces, the need to ensure roads are kept clean is more than aesthetic and is one of safety importance.

Outdoor spaces

As pubs, restaurants, and cafes re-open, the use of outdoor spaces is likely to increase. Locations that have on-street tables and facilities will present additional challenges for local authorities. The consumption of alcohol can lead to a vast range of street cleaning issues that municipal cleaners will need to cater for. From vomit to broken glass, street cleaners must use the correct equipment for each job. Broken glass can be easily cleaned using a road sweeper. Sweepers with wide-angled moveable brushes are ideal for this as they will allow drivers to clean by moving the sweeper over the glass on the pavement where it can be swept and collected by the machine.

For vomit and other liquids, these will need to be cleaned using hot pressure washers to effectively remove the material from the surface along with any associated bacteria. Kärcher’s HDS 13/35 is a mobile trailer unit that can be effectively used in conjunction with the MC 250 allowing local authorities to carry out both tasks at the same time rather than having to go back and repeat the same job. The HDS 13/35 produces hot water at a pressure of 350 bar without the need to attach it to a power source. High-pressure hot water cleaning provides for a deeper clean making the HDS an absolute all-rounder perfect for tackling the challenges of street cleaning. Failure to remove certain materials and substances pose a significant health risk that local authorities must tackle quickly and efficiently.

Graffiti removal

Another aspect of street cleaning that often calls for the use of hot water pressure washing is the removal of graffiti. Hot water pressure washers are ideal for their removal as the higher temperature makes lighter graffiti easy to shift from street surfaces. The combination of high pressure and hot water can reduce cleaning times by up to 40%. When cleaning graffiti using hot water pressure washers it is important to spray at a safe distance to avoid the risk of injury. A spray angle of 25° is ideal for removing graffiti on street surfaces allowing street cleaners to tackle the problem before it gets any bigger.

Making sure that streets and roads are safe for residents is more than just ensuring they look presentable, it is a crucial element to ensuring public safety. As lockdown restrictions ease, people return to work and their local pubs, bars and restaurants, the pressures on local authorities will likely increase in many areas. Using the right equipment for each job is not only the safest and easiest way of getting the job done, but it is also the quickest and most time-efficient.

Daniel Took is head of professional product marketing at Kärcher.

For more information visit http://www.karcher.co.uk