Calls to ‘exempt waste sector’ from self-isolation

The Conservative MP for South Swindon has called on the government to add waste and recycling workers to the list of essential workers exempted from self-isolation.

Swindon borough council says it has faced staff shortages in recent weeks, compounded by an “increasing number” of employees who have been asked to self-isolate due to Covid-19.

All households across Swindon have moved to a temporary four weekly recycling box collection as a result of staff shortages

As a result, all households across the borough have moved to a temporary four weekly recycling box collection as of 19 July. All other waste services remain unchanged.

In a statement published on 20 July, Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon since 2010, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the dedicated waste and recycling team at Swindon borough council has worked extremely hard to ensure that residents here in Swindon have continued to receive a good service.

“SBC has said that due to a number of the team self-isolating, we will potentially miss one recycling collection.

“I appreciate that this situation is far from ideal for residents and [MP for North Swindon] Justin Tomlinson and I have been in close contact with colleagues in government to discuss waste and recycling workers being added to the list of those essential workers who are exempted from self-isolation.

“We think this is a sensible proposal if workers are double jabbed and are tested.”

Exceptional circumstances

The Cabinet Office and Department of Health and Social Care announced on 19 July that railway signallers and air traffic controllers are among the critical workers who may in exceptional circumstances be able to leave self-isolation to attend work.

This will only apply to workers who are fully vaccinated (defined as someone who is 14 days post-final dose) and will be solely so that they can attend work. Workers will otherwise need to continue to self-isolate as directed by NHS Test and Trace.

‘Vital services’

In recent weeks, a national shortage of staff partly due to self-isolation requirements has caused a wave of disruption in the waste sector (see letsrecycle.com story).

Jacob Hayler is executive director of the ESA

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is the trade association representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry. The association’s executive director, Jacob Hayler, echoed Mr Buckland’s call for waste and recycling workers to the list of critical workers.

He told letsrecycle.com: “The waste and recycling industry provides vital services that are critical to the economy while, at the same time, protecting public health and the environment. Like the exemptions being considered for other sectors, we feel that our fully vaccinated essential workers should be able to leave isolation to help keep waste facilities running and to stop rubbish piling up on the streets.

“Our workplace Covid-19 controls will likely remain in place to help keep our workers safe, but the risk of transmission outside work in the community is high and our members are gravely concerned about the rapidly increasing number of employees self-isolating. This problem is being exacerbated by critical ongoing staff shortages after Brexit – particularly for trained drivers – and by people heading off on much-deserved planned leave over the summer months.”

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