AS COVID-19 cases in the country breached the one million mark, the EcoWaste Coalition underscored for the necessity of segregating waste at source to protect waste workers from getting infected.
The call was made as the group joins the globe in celebrating today World Day for Safety and Health at Work today.
In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the need to separate COVID-19 waste and other pathogenic waste from recyclable and compostable materials.
Zero waste campaigner Jove Benosa said waste workers, especially the informal recyclers, must be kept safe from harm caused by exposure to the novel coronavirus and other pathogens.
“We reiterate our plea to all waste generators to separate discarded materials at the point of generation to keep our environmental frontliners such as the waste workers safe from COVID-19 and other diseases,” Benosa said.
He said that used face masks, tissues, wipes and other potentially infectious waste should not be mixed with other discards and should be properly disposed of to avoid polluting our streets and the oceans.
While SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is mainly passed on from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, studies suggest that the virus can remain on some materials for varying amounts of time, the group said.
“We therefore need to keep COVID-contaminated waste materials separate from recyclables and compostables to reduce risk of exposure among waste collectors and recyclers who often handle trash with minimal protection,” he pointed out.
The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as protective garments, gloves, glasses and shoes, the lack of access to water and soap or hand sanitizers, and the poor compliance with mandatory waste segregation at source makes the job of waste workers prone to occupational hazards, the group emphasized.
Recognizing the vulnerability of waste workers to COVID-19 and other diseases, the EcoWaste Coalition and other environmental groups have come together to request the government to include waste workers as a priority population group for the ongoing vaccination program
“Ensuring early access to COVID-19 vaccine will undeniably provide health and economic benefits to our waste workers and their families,” they stressed.