Waste operatives must be classed as ‘key workers’

The Environmental Services Association has called on the government to help keep vital waste services moving, as coronavirus risks bringing the country to a halt.

The ESA has urgently called on the government to ensure that frontline recycling and waste industry workers are classified as key workers and that they continue to gain access to childcare, so that they can perform their vital roles.

Other priorities include allowing some short-term flexibility around planning and permitting conditions to allow services to continue in the event of a reduced workforce, or inability to move recyclable or waste material to its normal destinations. Plus, prioritising the sector as a critical industry to ensure the continuation of supplies necessary for it to keep operating, such as fuel.

Jacob Hayler, said: “The current circumstances are unprecedented and with the closure of schools across the country there is a risk that essential recycling and waste services grind to a halt –allowing waste to pile up in our homes and streets. Protecting the ability of employees to come to work is our number one priority so we are urgently calling on government to classify frontline recycling and waste operatives as key workers, so they can continue to provide the vital services upon which we all rely.

“ESA members are concerned that strict operational and technical rules around the operation of waste sites will force otherwise functioning facilities to close. For example, it might not be possible to move waste material to its normal destination, necessitating temporary storage of waste material in larger volumes than would normally be allowed. While ESA members respect these rules and will make every effort to comply with them, we need assurance from government that temporary unavoidable infractions will not be met with penalties, otherwise essential facilities may have to close.”