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Workers who handle waste and recyclables support the health of our communities, economies, and the environment at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. On a daily basis, they may be exposed to hazardous materials, such as household cleaners, pesticides, and medical waste. The COVID-19 pandemic only heightens these health risks, particularly to informal waste pickers who collect the recyclable materials that we throw in the trash.
In many countries, including major producing nations such as Brazil and Colombia, workers in the coffee sector have been defined as essential workers who must continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, Verité has been engaging stakeholders in The Cooperation On Fair, Free Equitable Employment (COFFEE) Project to learn about the impacts COVID-19 is having on coffee farmers and farmworkers and to explore potential actions that could mitigate the effects of the pandemic on them.
As is the case in most crises, the most vulnerable in society will feel the worst impacts of COVID-19. Children, especially those from poor communities, are at particular risk of exploitation as parents fall deeper into poverty during the ensuing economic crisis and face appalling choices about how to sustain their families.