DHS designates waste collection as essential service
The Department of Homeland Security has recognized waste collection as an essential service during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Photo supplied by Los Angeles Sanitation & Environment (LASAN).

DHS designates waste collection as essential service

NWRA reports success after requesting designation.


The Arlington, Virginia-based National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) says the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recognized solid waste collection workers as part of America’s Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce during the COVID-19 epidemic.

That designation, says NWRA, came after it sent a letter to DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf requesting the designation.

According to a March 20 press release from the NWRA, DHS designated the industry under its Public Works Transportation and Logistics categories with the following description:

  • to ensure the effective removal, storage and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste; and
  • to allow truck drivers who haul hazardous and waste materials to support critical infrastructure, capabilities, functions and services to keep operating.

NWRA writes, “While most other professions were grouped together on a single line, it is especially telling that waste collection received our own language in two separate sections.”

NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith says, “This is a major win for the waste industry and for the advocacy program at NWRA. I am proud of my staff for remaining at their posts during this national crisis and providing support to our members. We do in fact represent a critical industry, and the NWRA staff have been working overtime to ensure that government rules and regulations do not impede the industry’s efforts to protect public health. We extend our thanks to DHS for recognizing the vital role of the waste industry.”

The Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has requested similar status be designated to collectors and processors of recyclable materials.

On March 20, the NWRA also announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had specifically exempted waste haulers from Hours of Service (HOS) regulations during the COVID-19 national emergency.