We Must Prioritise Public Health Above Individual, Political, or Business Interests : A Video Message from International Solid Waste Association President, Antonis Mavropoulos

iswa .waste recycling coronavirus

The Coronavirus crisis is ongoing, and our world is swimming in unchartered waters. With the growing number of people infected, we all hope that it will be over as soon as possible. But during this difficult period, we all need to prioritise public health protection above any individual, political or business interest and agenda.

We also need to protect and take care of the health of ourselves and our families and contribute to the protection of the most vulnerable members of our societies: elder and already sick people, homeless, marginalised and poor communities. This is a period in which no one should left behind, no one should be left alone – it’s a time of solidarity and social responsibility.

In this period, we are all thankful to the health workers, doctors, nurses, administrative and labour that sustain the operations of the national and local health systems and hospitals, sacrificing their health and their lives, working 24 hours per day and trying to save as many lives as possible, under very difficult conditions and in many cases with serious supply problems.

The coronavirus crisis has already disrupted our daily lives, our business and our social relationships. It will further disrupt our societies, creating long-term social, financial and political impacts. Literally speaking, after the current emergency nothing will be the same. Economies will be seriously affected, and millions of jobs will be lost, demonstrating that GDP growth is less important than resilience and the right to work.

The first global quarantine will create a serious social and political impact, creating an unprecedented benchmark for the capacity of health systems to respond effectively, of these health systems that were gradually and purposefully downgraded in many countries by austerity and uncontrolled privatisation policies.

The willingness and ability of the global community to develop relevant medicines and vaccine as well as the availability of these medicines and vaccination for the poorest countries will determine the future of global cooperation and response. No country and no company in the world should try or should be allowed to control the relevant solutions. Global coordination will make it or break it based on the coronavirus crisis course.

In this difficult period, it is important to remember that the importance of a good public health system is becoming obvious to all of us when we miss it – but usually in this case it’s too late to prevent serious damages. The same is true for waste management systems: we understand their contribution to the quality of our urban lives only when we miss them, even for a short period.

Allow me to grab this opportunity to highlight that during the global pandemic, thousands of ISWA members are already doing extra efforts to ensure that:

First, waste management services will not be disrupted and no extra risks for public health will be created by improper waste management.

Second, waste management workers, especially those in waste collection, should take extra precautions and health & safety procedures to be protected by any potential infection by the waste streams and/or the equipment.

Third, the increased quantities of healthcare and medical waste should be safely treated and disposed of, making sure that they pose no risk for further infections and pollution.

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.

Last but not least, in this difficult period, our association’s operations and business model are also seriously affected. The GS and the Board of Directors are already working to identify the best way forward and proper solutions that will allow to minimise the disruption and continue our activities. We will soon inform you about it. 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.

Warm Regards and Stay Safe

Antonis Mavropoulos


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