Nicolas Humez , Chair of the ISWA Working Group on Hazardous Waste and Director of public affairs for SARP Industries, brings a brief update on the French COVID-19 waste situation as well as general advice on how to deal with Hazardous Waste during this difficult time.
Dear colleagues. Dear friends.
I finally find a few minutes to deliver this short message to you.
Firstly few words about France.
As you may know, Covid outbreak highly impacts France. The country ranks seventh in terms of infected people and ranks fifth in terms of death linked to Covid19.
France is locked down since the beginning of last week and containment restrictions are stricter and stricter. On the other side, our government firmly wants to keep the economy on, which requires a lot of clarifications in order to define which industries are essential and how to ensure that workers can go freely to work.
Regarding the waste management sector, during the conference call last Monday, the French Minister of the environment said:
The waste management sector, whether non-hazardous or hazardous, from households, hospitals or enterprises, must remain active in order to ensure the collection and the treatment.
At the moment, the instructions of the government are:
- Ensure collection and treatment of healthcare waste
- Ensure the collection and treatment of household waste
- Maintain in operation incineration and landfilling for non-hazardous waste
- Maintain in operation hazardous waste treatment
- Maintain as long as possible the separate collection of household waste (packaging, paper, cardboard, glass)
- maintain as long as possible in operation the sorting facilities for separately collected household waste.
Nevertheless, the activity of the sorting facilities is decreasing from one day to another.
Now, as chair of the hazardous waste working group, I would like to say few words about how it works on hazardous waste management.
If one questions this, hazardous waste treatment operations have to be maintained in order to ensure the continuity of activity of the industry and specifically for all essential sectors which produce hazardous waste.
This is all the more necessary since it is not possible to over-store or to store longer hazardous waste either at the point of production, in the industrial sites, or at the point of destination, in the hazardous waste treatment facilities, in order to minimise accident or even major accident hazards.
Finally, all flue gas cleaning residues from incineration (of municipal solid waste, of clinical waste, of sludges and of hazardous waste) should be easily evacuated, treated and disposed of. Indeed, the storage capacity of these residues on incineration facilities are very limited (2 to 3 days maximum) and if the residues are not evacuated, then incineration plants will have no other choice than shutting down with a risk to add a crisis to the crisis.
In order to preserve the activity of the hazardous waste treatment facilities, it is important to consider its employees as people to be prioritised for the delivery of protection equipment and, in case of containment measures, they have to be permitted to circulate.
Additionally, in order to keep the collection and treatment services in operation, all essential subcontractors (maintenance services, transporters, …) and suppliers (for reagents, energy, …) have to maintain their activity. One of the ways to get very precise information consists of providing a list of activities by, NACE codes or equivalent codes that defines economic activities.
My main advice in this crisis period is to dedicate a spokesperson who receive all information from the field and who is in direct and permanent contact with Authorities in order to be able to react as fast as possible when necessary to unlock critical situations that could lead to collapsing or closure of essential installations.
In France, all hazardous waste treatment facilities are in operation and are 100% committed to providing the best services to their customers. We also answer all specific demands we receive directly from the Authorities or from industries that are not usually our customers because they use installations not dedicated to the treatment of waste and these installations either are closed or stop all activities that are not in the core of their businesses.
I would like also to have a thought to all collaborators, those who drive the facilities and those who work from home, all of them have their role to play in order to maintain the operations. It is a very new way of working and they all had to adapt very quickly in order to avoid disruption now but also to prepare the resumption of activities.
Finally, I would say that we will have a lot of lessons to learn from this pandemics and its consequences. It is not time today but it demonstrates how our worldwide economic, social and politic model weakens our society. More sobriety would certainly benefit us for greater resilience.
Keep faith and take care!
This article is a transcript of a video message recorded by Nicolas Humez which can be viewed below
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