Waste and recycling workers across the U.S. are hard at work keeping communities clean. But while doing this essential work, they are at risk of being exposed to COVID-19, especially since there are shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
In Chicago, workers have expressed that they are picking up about 50 percent more material than usual, all without masks. Instead, the workers have been provided with boots and gloves, according to an article by the Chicago Sun-Times.
In Georgia, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and other states, workers are experiencing similar struggles, reporting a lack of PPE, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.
In an effort to get PPE into the hands of sanitation workers, the National Waste & Recycling Association sent a request to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor asking that FEMA list waste and recycling as a priority industry with vendors of personal protective equipment.
Motherboard has more information:
Greg Dowis, a sanitation worker in an Atlanta suburb, where coronavirus infection rates have soared in recent days, arrived to work on Tuesday and surveyed the cleaning supplies available for roughly 35 garbage truck drivers: one face mask and a couple boxes of blue nitrile gloves. He took a photo and texted it to Motherboard. Dowis and his team collect waste from hospitals and apartment complexes.
“Still no cleaning supplies or hand sanitizer,” he wrote in the text. “We are still having to pick up trash by hand...even at businesses that have confirmed cases.”
Waste collection, which has long been one of the deadliest jobs in the country, has suddenly became a lot more dangerous for the 467,000 sanitation workers in the United States as coronavirus spreads throughout the country.