20 March 2020
Letter to Government
Rt Hon George Eustice MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
2 Marsham Street
19 March 2020
Re: The essential role of the UK’s waste management sector in protecting public health
Dear Secretary of State
We are writing to you as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the professional chartered body for the UK resources and waste sector, to emphasise the critical role of the sector in safeguarding public health across the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak.
We call on the Government to ensure that waste collection and treatment workers are included on the list of essential key workers and that the waste management sector is classed as essential infrastructure as further Government-led planning on managing the impacts of Covid-19 is undertaken.
The sector, which employs over 100,000 people, is responsible for ensuring that over 200 million tonnes of waste/year are managed effectively to protect both people and the environment. In the next three months, the sector will need to deal with over 7 million tonnes of waste from UK households and up to 10 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste, including clinical waste. This waste needs to be collected regularly and managed properly to ensure that the UK population can live and work in safe and sanitary conditions. Many of the workers needed to do this require specialist skills and competencies to deliver the services and manage the facilities and sites, and they cannot easily or safely be substituted with volunteers or services personnel.
With the increasing numbers of people homeworking the importance of regular waste collection services will only become more important and pressing. The sector is already experiencing pressures on staff availability through illness and self-isolation associated with their families, and decisions about core service prioritisation are already having to be taken. In addition, any significant disruption to waste collection and treatment will be cumulative and the impacts could be prolonged.
We want to take this opportunity to reiterate that excluding the sector from the list of essential workers and infrastructure would be a catastrophic mistake and could potentially have a devastating impact across society.
We will continue to work with Defra and Environment Agency officials to develop the sector’s contingency options and also to identify where regulatory flexibility in terms of some permit and planning conditions might help to alleviate some of the risks that we might face throughout this crisis.
Trevor Nicoll, CIWM President
Dr Adam Read, CIWM Senior Vice President
Anna Willetts, CIWM Junior Vice President
CC: RT Hon Michael Gove MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office