After the meeting of the council of ministers on Sunday, March 29, the Royal Decree-Law that regulates recoverable paid leave for workers in non-essential services was approved. An even more severe phase of the action plan was entered to solve the health crisis caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 in Spain, which specified what services were considered essential for society. Waste management and decontamination activities were among them.

 

In line with UN recommendations

In point 18 of the annex to the Royal Decree, it was read that the recoverable paid leave did not apply to workers who provide “cleaning, maintenance, urgent breakdown and surveillance services”, as well as “collection services, management and treatment of hazardous waste, solid urban, hazardous and non-hazardous waste, collection and treatment of wastewater, decontamination activities and other waste management services and transportation and removal of by-products or in any of the entities belonging to the Public Sector, following the provisions of article 3 of Law 9/2017, of November 8, on Public Sector Contracts ”.

In this way, the suggestion to governments reflected in a statement from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in which they were asked to consider waste management “an urgent and essential public service in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize possible secondary impacts on health and the environment ”. A few management measures, he added, which should cover “all types of waste, including medical, household and hazardous waste.”

Through this statement, the UN highlighted how, during a pandemic outbreak like the current one, different medical waste both uninfected and dangerous (masks, gloves and other infected protective equipment) is generated. Improper management of them could trigger “a rebound effect and other consequences on human health and the environment.” In this sense, the management of household waste also plays a crucial role during the emergency COVID-19, since medical materials such as masks, gloves, used or expired medicines are also being discarded in the homes, among other items that may be contaminated. All of them must be stored apart from the other types of common household waste so that they can be collected properly.

 

The recycling industry in the COVID-19 crisis

Concerning waste households in the confinement situation due to the coronavirus are collecting various data, such as the one that indicates that the recycling of briks, plastics and metals in the yellow containers has increased by 15% since the state of alarm was declared on March 14. At the same time, according to information from more than 80% of sorting plants in Spain, there has been a decline in waste paper and cardboard (blue container) and refuse waste (grey container). A trend that fits with the slowdown in economic activity throughout the country, taking into account the large volumes of this type of waste generated by sectors such as hospitality or the rest of the commercial sector.

Precisely, since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Europe, organizations in the recycling sector have been demanding that the various EU authorities and member states recognize their status as an essential and critical activity. They claim that, in addition to the health and environmental benefits they represent, they play a key role in supplying essential raw materials for various sectors that also continue to operate. Both the European Confederation of Recycling Industries (EuRIC) and the World Federation of Recycling Industries (Bureau of International Recycling, BIR) are working tirelessly to come up with measures to sustain an industry that has been feeling the effects of the coronavirus for weeks.

In Spain, following the government’s instructions, the town councils are guaranteeing the selective collection of waste for its subsequent recycling, managing in a fully automated and separate way that garbage coming from homes with a member in quarantine or infected by Covid-19 and prioritizing the safety of plant employees. In a similar vein, from the beginning of these exceptional circumstances, PICVISA’s management and the human team have worked to contribute their experience and effort so that the company’s activity is carried out in the best possible way and results proportional to those that could be maintained are maintained. expected in a normal situation.

That the global pandemic of COVID-19 has transformed society (at least for the moment) is already a no-brainer. That, if solved, some changes will be permanent, it is by now, generally quite assimilated. What is 100% sure is that the new reality has led to daily learning and, in it, we see how effective waste management is key to the proper functioning of the entire system, both at an operational and well-being level.