On April 21, we gathered virtually for the second of our Recycler’s Town Halls to chat about how we continue to cope with the pandemic. We were joined by Michelle Blair, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Laurel, and Tony Drury, Operations Supervisor/Recycling Coordinator for the Washington County Solid Waste Department. Michelle and Tony shared their experiences operating in their respective environments (municipality vs. rural county), the impact on their operations, markets and customers. We also heard from several participants on what they are experiencing in their jurisdictions.
Listen to the full conversation below. And see a brief recap of what was discussed.
Industry News (A Brief List):
- Industry groups push for inclusion of recycling infrastructure in next federal coronavirus aid package
- Multiple states suspend landfill bans for yard waste
- COVID-19 turns some recycled fiber market dynamics on their head
- Single-use plastic bag supporters cite coronavirus risks in reviving sanitation concerns over reusables
Here is a sampling of the comments and suggestions offered in response to the questions posed over the course of the town hall.
Counties/municipalities have had to make modifications to their recycling and solid waste management services including …
- suspending residential bulky trash and/or other special pickups on residential side,
- suspending mulch/compost sales,
- discouraging residents in bringing bulky/non-essential materials to landfills to limit transactions
- reducing service hours at landfill and drop off centers,
- requiring everything to be in a bag or a container,
- banning hazardous household waste drop-offs.
*Commercial pickup remains steady. Laurel has increased the rounds to multi-residential sites such as apartment complexes, condos, etc. to deal with the increased waste due to the stay at home order.
Counties/municipalities have also adjusted the mechanics of recycling and solid waste management in terms of staff concerns and safety.
*Top concerns among employees are reduced hours affecting pay and safety concerns dealing with the public. Counties/municipalities have had to reduce hours, but most have been able to maintain the payroll at same level. Some employees have also had a difficult time adjusting to the new restrictions especially in terms of distancing from each other.
Safety measures taken include:
- requiring employees to wear protective equipment on the job at all times. *Laurel provides uniform cleaning,
- holding meetings outside with seats place 6 ft apart,
- deep cleaning of trucks, equipment, office surfaces etc. It is forecasted that as this becomes more routine, it will become the norm,
- encouraging limited contact with general public at drop-off sites,
- alternating staff days.
General citizen concerns are mostly are centered around the restrictions on pickups and landfill drop-offs, and when will these restrictions be lifted.
There has been a marked change in material composition and/or volume in several jurisdictions including …
- 20-35% increase in bulky materials due to uptick in cleanouts
- increase in plastic bags use for recyclables,
- heavier trash pickup beginning of week,
- increase in types of non-organics in regular trash.
*There has been an increase in drop-offs to landfills as many people are taking advantage of the time off to spring clean. Several counties also are seeing an uptick in out-of-county residents showing up at landfills to drop off bulk materials that their home counties aren’t currently accepting.
- Some haulers are charging coronavirus surcharges to overset higher tipping fees due to the additional volume they’re having to carry.
- Most agree that there will be budget challenges forthcoming.
- In terms of market demand, the good news is that cardboard is up.
- SWANA is urging people to delay Spring Cleaning, and not to litter streets and parking lots with gloves/masks.
We hope to continue the conversation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to share your concerns, suggestions, and/or solutions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Missed the March 26 Town Hall? Listen in here.