June 2, 2020
With workers in the waste management and recycling industry designated as essential, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published guidance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among waste collectors and recyclers.
What Waste Collectors and Recyclers Need to Know about COVID-19 states, “Potential sources of exposure include having close contact with a coworker or member of the public with COVID-19, or by contacting surfaces touched or handled by a person with COVID-19.” The guidance includes steps that are by now common to social settings: wear a mask and personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain appropriate social distancing, and clean equipment and surfaces often.
For employers in the waste management and recycling industry, the CDC directs them to interim guidance published earlier in May. Updates included in the guidance recommend that employers take the following steps:
- Conducting daily health checks
- Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
- Encouraging employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
- Improving the building ventilation system
The guidance for waste collectors and recyclers also includes information relating to reducing transmission among employees, maintaining a healthy work environment, and maintaining healthy business operations.
The CDC issued the guidance in response to urging by the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), a NERC Advisory Member.
“We appreciate the CDC and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety) working with us to develop resources to ensure our member companies can keep their employees safe during this global health crisis,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith. “NWRA is committed to working with our member companies to make sure everyone of our workers comes home safely each day. We thank NIOSH for their work on the fact sheet and also the National Safety Council for providing their expert review.”
In the United Kingdom, letsrecycle.com reports that the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum has updated its guidance for the fifth time. Along with the standard guidance for good hygiene, social distancing, and cleaning procedures, the updated document from WISH addresses challenges specific to the handling of waste and recycling. “Latest research indicates the virus could survive on cardboard for 24 hours, and metal/plastics for up to 72 hours,” the guidance states. “It is good practice to ensure a high standard of hygiene when handling waste materials, as should always be the case in all waste management activities.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also issued guidance for the handling of recyclables by individuals and workers in the industry. The guidance includes a brief video featuring EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Household recycling is more essential than ever,” Wheeler states. “We are all staying home and getting more deliveries in cardboard boxes and generating more material than normal, much of which can be recycled.”
“There are critical needs for all raw materials in the manufacturing supply chain, especially paper and cardboard,” Wheeler continued.
By Robert Kropp