Essential Not Disposable (Sanitation Workers, 2020)

Melanie Cervantes
Digital graphic, April 2020

The nation’s 460,000 plus sanitation workers who collect and dispose of the country’s waste are at high risk during the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. Not only do they have to pick up all our refuse which isn’t always well packed but they are picking up hazardous materials.

I’ve seen articles complain about people not tying trash bags well and then the workers have to pick up used tissues and other materials that could now be seen now biohazards but they are also handling medical waste such as surgical masks and empty IV bags. But now everyday homes that are observing the shelter at home orders (or similar policies) are generating medical waste from asymptomatic people and people who know they have the virus but are quarantined at home.

“And the National Waste & Recycling Association, an association of almost 700 members, expressed concern last week to U.S. state agencies that — among other problems — personal protective equipment for waste workers is unavailable because of panic buying by the general public.” (Bloomberg Opinion piece by Adam Minter 3/23/20). Support sanitation workers!