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During the lockdown, waste generation trends have transformed in several places, as businesses and restaurants have shuttered, tourism has dried up, and some inhabitants have relocated.
Fremont, CA: COVID-19 has an impact on waste systems all around the world. The pandemic is jeopardizing the safety of frontline waste collection and sorting employees in the Global South, and it has forced tens of thousands of informal waste collection employees to lose their jobs. Globally, outbreaks have disturbed international recycling markets and modified garbage generation patterns. Secondary effects with longer-term consequences are also beginning to emerge.
Here are three practices for safe waste management services during the pandemic:
Adapt to new waste generation patterns
During the lockdown, waste generation trends have transformed in several places, as businesses and restaurants have shuttered, tourism has dried up, and some inhabitants have relocated. As cities reopen, these patterns are likely to shift again, but they may differ from pre-crisis ones.
Cities should record these new and evolving sources of trash generation to detect changes, requirements, and opportunities. People are growing more food at home worldwide as a result of expanded household farming, which could open up new prospects for broadening home composting programs. Cities should also endeavor to identify local sources of COVID-19 hazardous waste,
such as hospitals and nursing facilities, and reallocate workforce and equipment to meet these new patterns and demands.
Uphold and accelerate downward trends in waste generation
Many communities have witnessed significant waste savings as a result of the lockout. With companies and restaurants shuttered, much of this is reduced commercial waste, which will grow once economies reopen. Cities should take advantage of opportunities to build on previous gains and maintain reductions, place a greater emphasis on waste reduction and avoidance, and take actions to prevent commercial waste volumes from returning to or exceeding pre-crisis levels as economic activity picks again.
Protect the safety and welfare of waste workers during the COVID-19 crisis
Issues related to COVID-19 transmission have impacted frontline garbage collection and sorting workers, who may be exposed to the virus. Due to containment measures and fears of the virus spreading by surface contact, tens of thousands of semi-formalized and informal waste collection employees in cities across the Global South have lost their jobs.
Waste operations should be declared an essential service during containment measures where cities have the power to do so, with additional support to protect worker safety and service continuity.
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