25 March 2020 by Caelia Quinault

Waste associations issue coronavirus updates

The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) has called for members of the global waste community to do all they can to ensure that waste management services do not suffer or collapse during the coronavirus crisis.

And, a second international organisation has also issued comment on the virus and implications for the waste sector (see below).

In an open letter published this week (March 23), ISWA president Antonis Mavropoulos said that the crisis meant the world was swimming in “uncharted waters” and that the contribution of waste management was only fully understood when it was missed, “even for a short period.”

ISWA president Antonis Mavropoulos

ISWA is a global not-for-profit organisation promoting sustainable and professional waste management and has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

During the pandemic, he explained that thousands of ISWA members were going to extra efforts to ensure that waste services were not disrupted, strict health and safety guidelines were followed to prevent infection and that increased quantities of healthcare and medical waste were safely disposed of.

“I am asking all ISWA members, national members, individuals and companies to offer their cooperation and expertise to the relevant local and national authorities and help them to ensure that the level of public health protection will be kept high and waste management services will not collapse or downgrade during the Coronavirus crisis”, he said.

Mr Mavropoulos added that the association’s operations and business model were “also seriously affected” and that its directors were working to identify ways to best support members at this time.

“Till then, please stay safe, take care of your health, protect your families and societies and work hard to make sure that waste management services will keep delivering high levels of public health protection.”


Mr Mavropoulos’ comments came as the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) – the global recycling industry federation with headquarters in Brussels – issued a series of ad hoc updates from BIR ambassadors working in respective countries and regions.

The BIR UK update explained: “Following an announcement on the evening of March 23, people in the UK have been told not to leave their homes other than for essential reasons such as food shopping.

“Scrap has been included in the category of critical industries and large merchants saw a flurry of activity last week”

BIR statemnt

“Scrap has been included in the category of critical industries and large merchants saw a flurry of activity last week, mainly as a result of their smaller counterparts wanting to turn stock into money. Some merchants have closed their doors.”

Meanwhile in Europe, the BIR said: “Italy is closing down smelters as part of its bid to control the pandemic by shutting all non-essential companies. Owing to a shortage of workers in France, most small to medium-sized businesses are closed. Large enterprises are partially open, with only 40% of yards in operation. While there is no more retail business, they are being supplied by those production plants still in operation. However, there is a question over how long this will continue.”


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