Schools have been asked to continue to provide care for a number of children but will be closed to the majority from 23 March.
Receiving key worker status means the children of waste and recycling sector employees will be prioritised for schooling.
Jacob Hayler, executive director of the sector’s trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “We are pleased to see the government acknowledge the essential role of recycling and waste operatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that our sector’s workforce will continue to receive educational provision for their children – allowing them to get on with their vital jobs.
“This was ESA members’ most pressing priority, but there are still many other issues around permitting rules, contractual performance and other technical areas unique to our sector, which the ESA is working with Defra and the Environment Agency to resolve, in order to ensure the sector can continue to provide effective recycling and waste services during this crisis.”
The decision to grant recycling and waste sector employees the status follows a plea yesterday (19 March) from the ESA and Mr Hayler (see letsrecycle.com story).
Contingency plans have been drawn up by many councils during the past few weeks, each hoping to keep their waste and recycling services running (see letsrecycle.com story).
And, on Wednesday, London Councils, the local government association for Greater London, warned avoiding contamination in recycling was now more important than ever, claiming doing so enables operatives to do their job safely and limit the spread of coronavirus (see letsrecycle.com story).
Current Public Health England advice on the disposal of potentially infectious waste states waste should be double-bagged and stored in a suitable place for 72 hours. If test results are negative the waste can then be put out with normal waste (see letsrecycle.com story).
The news has also been welcomed by Dr Simon Ellin, the chief executive officer of the Recycling Association, a trade body for the recycling industry.
He told letsrecycle.com: “I think the decision is sensible, pragmatic and great news. It’s an indication of the essential services we provide for the UK.
“We have to keep going and keep collecting material. We need to be able to continue producing packaging for vital medical supplies and food. We must be allowed to continue to collect and convert materials.
“But this is also good news on a wider front. It shows the government has realised how important and how essential we are as an industry.”