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Cleaners and removals workers reveal their weirdest ever call outs 19/07/2019

Not every home cleaning or maintenance job is straightforward. And now one UK firm has combed through its archives to unveil some of the most bizarre tasks and scenarios they’ve ever been forced to deal with.

The list has been compiled by Fantastic Services, a domestic services company celebrating 10 years in business this month. 

Co-founder Rune Sovndahl says some customers love to keep the Fantastic professionals on their toes. 

“Over the past decade we’ve been sending cleaners, builders, gardeners, removals professionals and pest controllers to homes all over the UK," he said. 

“While the vast majority of jobs are pretty straightforward, others have required a little bit of thinking outside the box from the Fantastic pros. 

“And, just for the record - no, we won’t dispose of your dead dog and we don’t want to get involved in your ‘adult party’ either!”

Here Rune and the Fantastic Services team reveal their top 10 maddest, 100 per cent genuine, requests: 

SATANIC RITUAL: 

“One of the professionals went to perform a window cleaning service. When he arrived at the address, he rang the doorbell a few times but no one opened the door. However he could hear someone inside, so he looked through the window. He saw a group of girls gathered in a circle, in a room full of candles, performing something that resembled an occult ritual. The scene spooked the cleaner so much that he’s since refused to take jobs at this address.”

SKELETON IN CLOSET: 

“A couple of years ago, a removals pro turned up to someone’s house to meet with a client. But he got the shock of his life after entering one of the bedrooms to collect boxes to be loaded into the van and finding a full-size human skeleton! It turned out the client was a collector of such objects - but it didn’t make it any less creepy!”

SEX PARTY: 

“A customer service agent at our HQ received a call from one of the professionals, saying a service had been cancelled. And when pushed for a reason, the professional informed HQ that the client was having a ‘private adult party’! The agent was pretty confused about what cancellation reason she was supposed to mark in the customer’s database!”

PET CEMETERY: 

“A woman called regarding her dog. She was concerned that her pooch was acting strange and was now lying on the carpet and not moving. She thought that, maybe, the dog had died - and she wanted the Fantastic pest control team to come and take him away! The agent on the phone explained to the lady that removing dead pets is not in the Fantastic Services’ portfolio - the pest controllers just deal with things like mice, wasps and bed bugs! But the client suddenly changed her mind and insisted that the animal lying on her carpet was a ‘big rat’. Luckily the dog started showing signs it was alive, so the Fantastic agent advised the client to give the pet a bowl of water instead!”

MARRIAGE GUIDANCE: 

“Recently, a client called in to discuss his booking with an agent. However, the gentleman was very upset as his wife had just taken all of her things - as well as his car - and had left him. After the client shared this, the agent asked if there was anything she could do to help him out and the man asked her…to sing him a song! We understand that breakups can be really hard sometimes. While the customer service expert couldn’t sing for him, she stayed on the line and offered him advice on how to understand women better and fix things up with his loved one.”

MORE RELATIONSHIP WOES: 

“Another customer service agent called a client who had booked a removals service. During the conversation, it turned out that the man had just been kicked out of the house by his wife. When asking the client for a drop-off address for the service, the man replied ‘the nearest hotel’.

SNAIL BABYSITTING: 

“One time we ended up performing a snail babysitting service. One of our regular customers called saying that in addition to the cleaning that week, she would like us to look after their pet - a snail - while they were away on holiday. The lady’s daughter had autism and had become convinced that this little snail was holding the soul of the pet rabbit they’d just buried - and she wouldn’t go without having a professional take care of it while on holiday. We actually took care of the snail as our new office pet, which we returned safe and sound after their holidays.”

CAVE IN: 

“A customer booked a pest control service because his loft was infested with mice. When going upstairs to inspect the place and set bait, the specialist stepped on a crooked board which led to him falling through the ceiling right in front of the customer. Fortunately, no one was harmed, and the pro fixed the damage, but those who saw it said it was like a scene from a cartoon.”

LOOP: 

“One time, a customer service agent called a client who had booked a removal service, to discuss some details surrounding the job. The conversation went on for quite a long time - around half an hour. At one point the agent became suspicious, because the client seemed to repeat the same thing over and over again. When asking the question, ‘How would you prefer to resolve this issue?’ and hearing the same, ‘but of course, of course…’, the agent realised that the client has been playing a recording of himself all along.”

PHONE FINDER: 

“A guy called because he lost his phone on a train. As a cleaning and maintenance company, we couldn’t possibly have helped him in any capacity, so the agent quickly advised him to call the train company, or the police. However, the gentleman couldn’t comprehend that we do not clean trains and cannot help him locate his lost phone. Finally, the unlucky guy demanded to be passed to speak to a manager to clarify things. Of course, we always try to help our customers.”

https://www.fantasticservices.com

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Pride’s most colourful clean up 12/07/2019

Veolia and Westminster City Council have given London Pride Parade goers their most colourful clear up to date, with rainbow collection vehicles, brooms and barrows used to clear over 55 tonnes of recycling and waste from the streets after the event on Saturday 6th July.

Pride Parade is one of Westminster's largest celebrations, with thousands of spectators joining in on the day’s fun. Veolia manages the clear up operation on behalf of Westminster City Council, and to mark the 50th anniversary of the event, took great pride in switching some of their usual street cleansing equipment for multi-coloured alternatives.

Simon Raven, street cleansing foreman from Veolia, said: “It was nice to support the LGBT+ community through our rainbow coloured equipment. People were approaching us to take photos and some said we could have joined the parade, however we were more than happy to deliver a colourful clean up, making sure the day’s spirit was carried out until the last of the recycling and waste was removed.”

To clean up after the parade, Veolia deployed over 30 vehicles and 115 staff. They expect to have collected around over 55 tonnes of recycling and waste. Recyclables collected from the parade route will be sent to Veolia’s Southwark recycling facility for sorting, and any non recyclable waste will be sent to its SELCHP Energy Recovery Facility, to be turned into low carbon energy to heat and power local homes.

Westminster City Council deputy leader Tim Mitchell said: “We’re proud to be able to host one of the largest LGBT+ celebrations in the world right in the heart of Westminster. Our waste and recycling teams work incredibly hard to make sure the streets are clean and clear as soon as possible after Pride. It really is a mammoth effort and part of what makes Westminster such a great place to live and visit.”

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Recycled toilet tissue falls out of favour 11/07/2019

Recycled toilet tissue is becoming less popular with the public as shoppers are placing their preference for luxury products above environmental concerns.

The major brands are using far less recycled paper than they did in 2011 amid a growing trend for high quality 'four-ply' and quilted toilet roll known for its softness.

Only five of the nine major supermarkets (the Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose), are offering their own-brand recycled toilet paper, analysis from Ethical Consumer magazine found.

In 2011, just under 30 per cent of the raw material used by Kimberly-Clark, one of the biggest suppliers of toilet paper, was from recycled sources. By 2017 this figure had fallen to 23.5 per cent, the researchers found. The company’s Andrex brand used to offer a recycled/bamboo range but this was discontinued in 2015.

The study follows a 2017 Greenpeace report which warned that large parts of Sweden’s Great Northern Forest, and the biodiversity contained within it, were under threat from the timber industry’s growing demand for virgin wood.

“There is no need to cut down forests to make toilet roll, yet this is precisely what is happening,” said Alex Crumbie, a researcher for Ethical Consumer. “With consumer attention focused on plastic, some of the big brands have slowed and even reversed their use of recycled paper in the toilet rolls they make.”

The UK uses 1.3 million tonnes of toilet paper a year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries, with the average British consumer reportedly getting through 127 rolls every year.

The new research flags to consumers that the chemicals used to process recycled raw materials are less hazardous than those required to treat virgin wood pulp. Yet only five brands did not use any virgin wood pulp for their toilet paper: Ecoleaf, Essential, Traidcraft, The Cheeky Panda, and Who Gives A Crap.

It also warns consumers to be wary of thinking a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label on toilet roll is enough to ease their conscience.

Most toilet rolls use the FSC Mix mark. This means the paper is made from a mix of FSC virgin wood, recycled, and virgin wood from “controlled sources”. These are not fully certified FSC forests, but are considered low risk.

Kimberly-Clark said: “As one of the world’s largest buyers of market pulp, we know that protecting forests is critical to creating a resilient supply chain for our products. By having the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark on packaging for products like Andrex, we’re using the strong reputation of our brands to raise awareness of responsible forestry around the world.”

Crumbie added: “Only around 30% of the world’s population uses toilet roll, so we know that there are lots of perfectly hygienic alternatives to using paper-based products. It’s important we consider what we’re using to wipe our behinds with, because at the moment our precious planet is getting a bum deal.”

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Water drone starts collecting garbage at Dubai Marina 10/07/2019

A water drone will begin collecting the garbage present at the Dubai Marina from November this year.

The WasteShark robot, created in 2016 by the Dutch company RanMarine, has been in testing for a year, through a partnership with Ecocoast. 

It is controlled remotely and has the ability to collect waste in the water by its "shark mouth".

The manufacturer claims that the WasteShark supports up to 159.6 kg of waste and has a battery life of up to 16 hours running. It has a laser imaging technology in order to avoid collisions.

In addition, RanMarine co-founder Oliver Cunningham explains that the company's aquatic drone is able to collect data on water and air quality, detect the depth and contours of the seabed, and separate chemicals from the ocean, such as heavy metals, oil and arsenic.

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Too much cleanliness not bad for health, report on hygiene says 10/07/2019

Public health officials have debunked the myth that being "too clean" in the home is bad for health and causes allergies in children.

While adults and children should get outside to play with family, friends and pets in order to build healthy immunity, a new report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) says this should not get in the way of good hygiene in the home.

Experts said people should worry less about cleaning floors, walls and furniture, and concentrate more on surfaces, food preparation, washing dishcloths and putting bedding and towels on a 60C wash. 

Such simple measures can cut down the risk of spreading serious infections such as listeria, e. coli or norovirus and add up to a “targeted hygiene” approach, they said.

The "hygiene hypothesis" which took off in the late 1980s, suggests 'overcleanliness' is to blame for rising rates of allergies. But the recommendation that children be exposed to a range of harmful pathogens to 'make them stronger' has now been scientifically refuted. 

According to the RSPH, what people actually need is diverse exposure to microbes that are mostly harmless – such as through playing outside – rather than infections from harmful microbes.

Lifestyle habits, such as keeping children indoors and the growing use of antibiotics, are more to blame than cleanliness for keeping children from getting the exposure they need, it added.

The report calls for people to adopt a “targeted hygiene” approach, such as cleaning surfaces, utensils and hands thoroughly during and after food preparation, including after handling raw meat.

People should also wash hands with soap and water before eating with fingers, after using the toilet, after coughing, sneezing and blowing noses and after handling and laundering dirty clothing and household linens.

Good handwashing is also essential after playing with pets, feeding them and clearing up their waste, and after putting out bin bags and caring for an infected family member who has vomiting or diarrhoea, the report said.

Towels and bed linens should also be washed at 60C to prevent the spread of infections.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The problem is that we have become confused about what hygiene is, and how it differs from cleanliness.

“Whereas cleaning means removing dirt and microbes, hygiene means cleaning in the places and times that matter – in the right way – to break the chain of infection whilst preparing food, using the toilet, caring for pets etc.”

An accompanying survey for the report found that almost one in four (23%) people agreed with the statement ‘hygiene in the home is not important because children need to be exposed to harmful germs to build their immune system’.

More than half also mistakenly thought keeping homes too clean was damaging.

The report said: “This is a potentially harmful belief which could lead to children being exposed unnecessarily to harmful or even life-threatening infections.”

The survey also revealed “substantial public confusion” about the relationship between cleanliness and hygiene, with 61% believing dirty hands from outdoor play are likely to spread harmful germs, despite there being little evidence that outdoor dirt carries harmful microbes.

Some 36% of people also mistakenly believed dirt is usually or always harmful.

The poll also found that 22% of people never wash and dry dish cloths between use, and almost one in three (32%) mistakenly believed this was low risk.

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Third of Brits have been 'shamed' for getting a cleaner 10/07/2019

Being house-proud is well and truly in vogue, with Instagram cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch winning armies of fans and Marie Kondo showing how to declutter on Netflix. But despite the trend, people in the UK are still embarrassed to admit they get home help - and risk being abused if others find out about it.

That’s according to a new poll commissioned by UK cleaning and maintenance firm Fantastic Services. 

The stats show more than half of us - 59% - have outsourced home cleaning or maintenance at some point, with a third - 35% - still actively doing so. Yet more than one in ten - 12% - said they felt ‘uncomfortable’ sharing their secret with others due to the ‘fear of being judged’. 

And 35% said they’d actually been ‘shamed’ for getting a cleaner. 

Rune Sovndahl, co-founder of Fantastic Services, says the results point to some deeply ingrained ‘social stigmas’ when it comes to cleaning, which need to be erased. 

He says: “Let’s get this clear - hiring a cleaner should come with absolutely no sense of shame. 

“You wouldn’t think twice about ordering a takeaway, where you essentially let someone else cook for you, so why should you be embarrassed about letting someone else clean for you? 

“Some of the commentary responses we received were also revealing to say the least. Respondents told how friends couldn’t understand why someone would pay for a cleaner if they could do it themselves, while others were called ‘lazy’ or ‘spoilt’ for not having the time to clean. 

“These sort of views are, in my opinion, unhelpful and wholly unwarranted. The reality is that modern families work long hours and want their weekends to revolve around their loved ones, not chores. 

“This shaming is also deeply disrespectful to the professional, trained cleaning staff who take pride in their work and do a damn good job of it, too.”

Interestingly, one in five - 18% - admit shaming others for getting a cleaner themselves, either intentionally, unintentionally or ‘only in my head’. 

In the online poll of social media users, more than two thirds - 75% - say they wouldn’t hire a cleaner due to the ‘fear of being judged’. 

The respondents, aged between 18 and 55+, also indicated how they suspected the shaming was down to ‘hidden jealousy’. 

One survey user commented, ‘I live alone and I was shamed by people saying that I am lazy and should be able to clean my house myself’. 

Another felt the personal attacks were, ‘not only condescending but very much intended to undermine my choices and focus as a career is one of those elements where I am very dedicated.’

Sovndahl, who’s Fantastic Services firm celebrates its 10th anniversary this month and has more than 166 cleaning franchises in the UK, adds: “This shaming also doesn’t take into account those with disabilities and who need extra help at home. 

“And remember not all disabilities are visible. Before you brand someone ‘lazy’, understand that we all have different responsibilities and pressures in life.”

 
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Biffa found guilty of exporting banned waste 27/06/2019

Biffa has been convicted of illegally trying to ship contaminated waste including used nappies and food packaging to China in containers that were supposed to contain paper for recycling. 

While it is legal to export waste paper to China, shipping unsorted household waste there has been banned since 2006. 

The company, one of the UK’s largest waste management firms, was prosecuted by the Environment Agency after inspectors searched seven 25-tonne containers at Felixstowe port. 

The watchdog said its agents “found everything from women’s underwear and plastic bottles to metal pipes and even a damaged copy of a 12-inch record by 90s chart-toppers Deee-Lite”.

“The nappies and sanitary towels gave off a pungent 'vomit-like' smell when inspected by officers,” it added. 

Other debris allegedly found in the containers included laminate flooring, coat hangers, pet food containers, toilet wipes, and latex gloves.

Biffa said it had “strongly contested” the case and was considering whether to appeal the jury’s decision following the three-week trial at Wood Green crown court.

But the Environment Agency said jurors did not accept Biffa's claim that the contaminated bundles were made up of waste paper.

A Biffa spokesman said: “These materials were regularly inspected by customs in China and by a Chinese Inspectorate regime based in the UK prior to shipping. 

“In addition, all buyers conducted pre-checks before shipping to confirm that the materials were 98.5pc pure paper, which was the accepted industry standard.”

The waste management firm urged the Environment Agency to clarify what levels of purity would be acceptable under the law. 

The EA said Biffa has agreed a £9,912 proceeds of crime payment, although sentencing was deferred to 27 September.

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Businesses to phase-out eight 'problem plastics' by 2020 02/07/2019

Companies signed up to the UK Plastic Pact have committed to removing eight "problem plastics" by 2020, including cutlery, cotton buds and polystyrene packaging.

According to a new progress report from waste reduction body WRAP, plastic cutlery, cotton buds, stirrers, polystyrene packaging, oxo-degradables, straws and PVC packaging are the eight items that should be eliminated by 2020.

Now, members of the UK Plastics Pact, are taking the first steps towards their commitments by phasing out the use of the items.

The eight for elimination are accompanied by a second list of 19 items to be “actively investigated” by pact members resulting in either avoidance, re-use, re-design or recycling or composting by 2025.

The list includes plastic bags, plastic film packaging, multi-pack rings for canned drinks, vegetable and fruit net bags, secondary wrapping around multi-packs and PVC cling film.

Plastic bottle tops and caps, single-use drinks bottles, non-recyclable coloured plastics, fruit and vegetable punnets, internal plastic trays such as those used in premium biscuits and single-use plastic cups and lids are also on the list, as are teabags, which can contain or be made from non-degradable plastic and contaminate compost.

WRAP director Peter Maddox said: “We know that more people than ever are concerned about the impact of plastics. The fundamental way industry can support this public desire is by addressing the issues that lead to plastic packaging being problematic.

“So, for every item of packaging, we need to consider whether plastic is the right material choice, or indeed if packaging is required at all. In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective. In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled. The items listed today are priorities for UK Plastics Pact members, and the onus is on those members to implement changes, urgently.”

WRAP claimed that the move aligns with the European Union’s Single Use Plastic Directive and the UK Government’s ban on the sale and use of straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems in England from next April.

Under the pact, the businesses have also agreed targets to make 100% of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable and to ensure 70% is effectively recycled or composted.

Members, which include major food and drink brands, supermarkets, manufacturers, retailers and plastic re-processors, will also ensure that there is an average 30% recycled content across plastic packaging by 2025.

Launched by not-for-profit WRAP, the UK Plastics Pact purported to be the first commitment of its kind, uniting corporates across the plastic value chain in a bid to improve recyclability, champion reuse and foster plastic-free innovations.

Its original 42 members, which include the likes of Nestlé, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and PepsiCo, were responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets at the time of its launch.

Since then, the initiative has grown to reach 127 members, garnering support from waste management firms, local authorities, universities and SMEs alongside the founding food and drinks and consumer goods giants.

The report has been met with criticism by some MPs, with deputy leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack, claiming that a self-regulation model had “failed” and that Government would need to intervene with “strong action”.

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Union warns dirty schools pose a health risk 09/07/2019

Dirty schools caused by cleaning cutbacks pose a health risk for pupils and staff, a Scottish teaching union has warned.

In a survey conducted by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) of more than 600 schools, around 80% of respondents said their school had suffered a drop in the frequency or quality of cleaning due to budget cuts in the past three years.

More than 100 of those surveyed said their classrooms were dirty, with some describing them as “filthy” or “disgusting”.

Around 120 people said either they or teacher colleagues had been forced to clean classrooms or another part of the school.

A total of 138 responses raised concerns about health or hygiene in schools due to poor cleaning. But they added that the cleaning operatives weren’t to blame for the lower standards, instead cleaning staff were said to be allocated too little time per room to clean adequately.

Some said cleaning operatives were working beyond their contracted hours while others claimed there was no absence cover for cleaning staff.

Respondents reported vomit not being cleared up effectively, toilets smelling and not being cleaned regularly, and bins not being emptied daily.

The survey also found cleaning operatives had been given cheaper, less effective products and in some cases were told to use just water.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The results of this survey make for worrying reading. Schools simply must be properly cleaned on a daily basis to ensure an appropriate learning and teaching environment for pupils and staff.”

“Cuts to cleaning services are placing a great deal of strain on cleaning staff, in some instances forcing teachers to undertake cleaning of classrooms, and creating an environment where germs and disease can spread rapidly and with serious repercussions for the health of pupils and staff.

“This can lead to increases in pupil and teacher absence, with a detrimental impact on both wellbeing and on learning and teaching.

“Recent incidences such as major outbreaks of norovirus and infestations of insects or rodents in schools have further highlighted the consequences of cutting back on proper cleaning within our schools.”

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UK workers like their offices, but say design harms productivity 25/06/2019

UK workers are happier with their office environment than ever before, but office design is still hindering worker productivity, according to real estate consultant Saville.

Their latest What Workers Want report shows “significant increases in workers reporting that their workplace is positively impacting their physical and mental health”, with 39 per cent agreeing that it positively impacts their mental health (up from 33 per cent in 2016); 34 per cent say it positively impacts their physical health (up from 25 per cent in 2016). 

However, while workers may be generally happier with their workspace, a sizeable majority think it actively harms how productive they are. Almost a third of workers (32 per cent) say their workplace’s internal design/ layout decreases their productivity; this increases to 45 per cent where people work for an employer with a hot-desking policy. 

Seventy-three per cent of UK office workers said that they work in an open plan office, opposed to 18 per cent who work in private offices. Those who reported they were in an open plan office were more likely to say the internal design/layout decreased their productivity than those in a private office (36 per cent versus 14 per cent). Eighty-three per cent of workers say that noise levels in their office are important to them – this has increased from 77 per cent in 2016.

Only a third (34 per cent) of workers said that they’ve been asked their views on their office environment by their current employee, opposed to 59 per cent who have not.

According to Savills the majority of office workers still want their own dedicated desk (60 per cent of respondents chose this as their preferred workplace location), with there being very little variation in answers between age groups. 

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