The Circular Economy and Safety and Health: Possible implications for future waste sector workplaces


A sustainable future needs a circular economy (CE), based on minimising waste streams and using them as resources. However, this has implications for the waste sector, and especially workers’ occupational safety and health (OSH).

Using four CE scenarios, this policy brief examines what the future may hold for the waste sector in 2040. It identifies OSH issues common to all four scenarios, challenges as well as opportunities related to automation of waste processes, the use of robotics and (rapid) changing regulation.

The brief explores how  issues may be overcome to enable the transition to a CE. It also highlights how other issues, e.g. new materials in the waste stream, deskilling or  overreliance on automated processes, may also pose risks to waste sector workers and how regulation, standardisation and documentation are key to reducing OSH hazards.

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