Waste management during COVID 19 – what’s important?

Waste management during COVID 19 – what’s important?

As a nation, we are currently experiencing unprecedented times, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate all our lives. Many businesses are at a standstill, with a huge proportion of retail stores closed and a number of restaurants amending their offerings – with takeout and delivery services – just to stay afloat.

But for those who are managing ‘business as usual’ – and even for the companies operating with limited staff and resources – high levels of waste are still being produced. Recently, MD of Riverside Waste Machinery – Jonathan Oldfield – featured in Industrial Compliance magazine advising how to maintain effective waste management processes, during this challenging period. If you missed it, you can catch it in full here…

It’s fair to say that we didn’t see COVID-19 coming. At least not to the extent that anything could have prepared us all for what 2020 was going to look like. In terms of family lives and friendships, to the impact on firms and their communications with colleagues, it’s unclear when we will get back to any kind of ‘normality’ – and in fact whether life will ever be the same again.

But, despite business closures, reductions in services and decreased numbers of staff, there are still those out there who are operating at either full, or partial capacity. Where would we be right now without the supermarkets, the farm shops, the delivery drivers and the warehouse operatives? We need these establishments to enable us to get by, and with this comes the need to remain considerate of waste management practices.

Many companies are, understandably, in survival mode, which means their environmental priorities – and in some instances, obligations – may fall considerably down the pecking order. But as tough as it is, any business with their eyes on the long game needs to ensure that they continue to fulfil not just their customer demands, but any environmental responsibilities that they are bound by. This includes laws under The Environment Act 1995, which states that anyone who produces, handles or disposes of waste must make sure it is done properly and safely, and The Control of Pollution Act 1974, which regulates the transportation and disposal of waste.

The last thing that any organisation wants when they come out of the other side of this is a fine – or worse still, an investigation or prosecution.

It’s important to think about safety, too. As mentioned above, some firms – such as those in the logistics and food manufacturing industries – are still extremely busy at this time. As a result, cardboard and plastic packaging arisings in many instances are ‘on the up’, which doesn’t just mean untidy sites but is also presenting huge storage headaches, as well as potential health and safety issues for staff in term of injuries and potential fire risks. For these businesses, smart wate handling processes are more important now than ever, and someone needs to remain responsible for these.

At the opposite end of the scale, quieter businesses that have furloughed staff may need refresher training when employees do return to work. From overall environmental procedure updates to hands-on sessions to recap on the safe operation of potentially hazardous waste machinery, organisations should evaluate where skills gaps may have arisen, especially if colleagues have been away from the workplace for some time.

There may even be the need to completely revisit recycling practices on the whole. Carefully segregating waste at source is unlikely to be a priority for an entity that is currently fighting for its survival, meaning that companies’ environmental processes will need to be recommunicated to every member of staff, when the time is right.

We all agree that this is a challenging time for everyone but it’s important that firms don’t banish important waste management practices to the back of their minds. Keeping ‘green’ considerations in sharp focus will ensure the continued protection of the environment, staff, and ultimately the strength and success of businesses, in the long run.