Bin men across the country fear they have been left exposed to the coronavirus bug.
Refuse collectors say they have not been given basic protection such as hand sanitiser and face masks.
They also claim it is impossible to social distance doing their jobs.
Workers say they are also struggling to cope with the extra waste caused by people panic buying.
It comes as it emerged around 30% of the workforce is off sick, with fears piles of rubbish could soon start to build up on the streets.
Councils across the country have scaled back household bin collections and many recycling centres have closed.
One bin man said: “The biggest problem we’ve had is social distancing – trying to keep two metres apart.
“When you’re a bin man you tend to sit in the wagon with three guys, so obviously you can’t have a two- metre gap.”
He also revealed that despite being exposed to people’s waste on a daily basis, he and his colleagues had not even been provided with supplies of hand sanitiser.
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The man, who works in the east Midlands, said: “We’ve run out of hand sanitiser, we’ve been waiting 11 days.
“We’ve had a conversation with management about face masks but we haven’t got a supply of them and in their view we don’t need them.
“This makes some of the guys feel a bit vulnerable. We also don’t know what’s inside the bins, occasionally we look on top of recycling bins and we see used tissue paper.”
Another bin man told how they were struggling with the mountain of extra rubbish. He said: “Our problem is the public at home, online shopping and panic buying. With staff shortages and extra waste we are very stretched.”
Stuart Richards, of the GMB union, added: “Our members working on the bins are key workers. The least they can expect is for their employers to take some responsibility and put adequate measures in place to keep them safe.”
Bin collection bosses said they had brought in as many safety measures as possible, but admitted they were struggling to get hold of sanitiser.
Richard Kirkman from Veolia, the UK’s largest waste collection contractor, said they were doing “everything in our power to get more protective equipment”.
He added: “Safety has always been – and particularly now – our number one priority.”
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