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How Are Waste Operative Key Workers Keeping Safe?

How Are Waste Operative Key Workers Keeping Safe?
05 May 2020 | Updated 13 May 2020

Each week we clap for the NHS, key workers, carers and all of those providing essential services during lockdown – including waste operatives collecting domestic and business waste.

Waste services have already been affected by the outbreak, with councils closing down recycling centres and reducing their waste services.

So let's take a look at the current measures to keep these keyworkers safe, as well as any practical steps we can take to help this essential workforce.

“There are around twenty-seven million households in the United Kingdom and, collectively, they produce the equivalent of a tonne of rubbish each, every year. Collecting, sorting, and processing the waste from this many households is a huge daily challenge and requires a workforce of more than 107,000 people, who have been identified by government as key workers, providing support during this crisis.”

–Environmental Services Association (ESA) Statement




Social media support for domestic waste operatives has been prevalent, with people showing their appreciation for the hard work that goes into maintaining bin collections. 

Basingstoke council tweeted the following advice for their residents, to "help to keep our amazing bin crew happy and safe”


  1. Stay 2m away
  2. Don’t walk your bins to the crew
  3. Wash your hands before and after handling your bin
  4. Double bag tissues etc
  5. Leave them messages and pictures 


Environmental Services Association Statement 


On 25 March 2020, a statement from the Environmental Services Association (ESA) reassured the public that everything possible was being done to maintain waste collections, and urged us all to help keep operatives safe by following government guidelines.

In the statement, households are asked to take several steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

“Following government advice, to protect workers and combat the spread of infection, anyone who feels ill at home (whether diagnosed with COVID-19 or not) should place all their waste in the general rubbish bin, and should double-bag it, making sure the bags are securely tied. They should then wait at least 72 hours before placing it out for collection. For now, this material should not be put in your recycling.”


Eligibility for testing


As of 27 April 2020 Coronavirus testing has been extended to all essential workers in England who have symptoms, including critical workers in the resources and waste sector.

This means that essential workers, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will now be able to get tested, and will have the reassurance of knowing whether their symptoms are caused by coronavirus and can decide whether they are well enough to return to work.


Reduced need for physical signatures


The Environment Agency has also taken steps to protect operatives during waste transfer processes, introducing the RPS C8.

By law, for each load of non-hazardous waste you move off your premises, you need a waste transfer note or a document with the same information, such as an invoice. A copy then must be kept for two years, and shown to an enforcement officer from your local council or the Environment Agency if asked.

The RPS C8 temporarily removes the need for physical signatures on paper waste transfer and consignment notes, helping to keep both parties safe from transmission of infection during transactions.

Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Jacob Hayler, said: “This position statement is a common-sense approach that will be welcomed by the sector, although, it has perhaps taken a little longer to arrive than was desirable, bearing in mind that strict social-distancing regulations have been in place for a month now.”

Picture: Waste wheelie bins

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 05 May 2020


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