The director of the Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has written to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, calling for waste and recycling collectors be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.
In a letter sent today (5 February), Alan Wheeler urged the government to give “serious consideration” to prioritising those that undertake waste and recycling collections (including textiles) to be considered as priorities to receive vaccinations.
He explained that in the textiles sector, clothing banks have remained open throughout national lockdowns and provided an essential service, particularly in light of people having more time to clear out their homes and charity shops being closed.
Mr Wheeler added that textile banks are often situated in other “busy areas”, such as public car parks, or at household recycling centres, all of which are “busier than normal”.
He added: “It is therefore not surprising that we have received reports of members of the public approaching our collectors whilst they are emptying the banks, without adhering to social distancing rules and coughing profusely. Understandably this is extremely worrying for those that experience such incidents”
Mr Wheeler explained that every time a clothing and textile collector is going out to service these banks they are “significantly increasing their risk of catching Covid-19”, particularly as it involves emptying them by hand.
The letter added that the waste and recycling sector is one of the most important yet “widely overlooked” industries, and its work throughout the pandemic has allowed the country to continue to function.
He explained that by prioritising waste and recycling crews in the vaccine roll out, the industry can be assured that it will be safer for them to continued their work and “facilitate the return to relative normality”.
Mr Wheeler concluded the letter by saying: “We have every confidence that our members are taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk of catching Covid 19 when collecting used clothing and textile items, but the fact is that they still remain at a significantly elevated risk of catching the virus. The Textile Recycling Association also understands that representatives from other parts of the UK’s waste and recycling sectors have very similar concerns.
“I am writing to you as a representative of our sector to ask that the UK Government gives serious consideration to prioritising those that operate waste and recycling collections (including those that collect textiles) to be considered as priorities to receive Covid 19 vaccinations. It is important to make this decision now and not postpone it.”
It follows concern from the wider waste sector over staffing levels due to self-isolation and positive test results.
In January, the Environment Services Association (ESA) called on the government to make waste collectors are considered within the priority tranches for vaccination (see letsrecycle.com story).