Tips for recycling during COVID-19

Millions of households around the region are facing newfound stressors and disruptions to their routines due to COVID-19 and the ways in which we are combating its spread.

That sudden change in priorities, although having some unintended benefits for automobile emissions levels, has become a burden on the environment in a different way — with an exponential growth in home delivery packaging, to-go containers and other consumer-related materials either being misplaced in the recycling bin (contaminating recycling loads), or being sent to landfills outright.

Recyclespot.org is your one stop spot for keeping up-to-date on ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Here are some tips for reducing your waste during COVID:

  • Plastic grocery and retail bags — plastic bags from hundreds of thousands of home deliveries are winding up in curbside recycling bins at an unprecedented rate. Although the sentiment to recycle as much as possible is a good instinct, plastic bags and films can tangle up sorting machines and aren’t accepted by recyclable materials buyers. Take Recyclespot’s advice and Return to Retail. Dozens of area big-box retailers and grocery stores have once again started accepting used plastic bags. See which locations will accept them at Recyclespot.org (search for “Plastic Bags (grocery, retail)“)

  • Takeout materials — although Styrofoam containers must be thrown in the trash, many local and national food vendors are boxing their meals up in recyclable plastic and reusable containers. Used plastic cutlery (forks, knives) and napkins can’t be recycled either. But if you’re eating from the quarantined safety of home, you have the benefit of using your own metal silverware. Ask for no utensils, napkins, or packaged condiments in your next order, and cut down on your meal-related waste!

  • Personal protective equipment 129 billion masks are estimated to have been used globally every month of the pandemic. Disposable masks can NOT be recycled (and ditched masks have been making their way to streams and rivers!) Recent studies have warned against the use of thin polyester “gaiter” scarves and bandanas as masks versus the effectiveness of dual-layer cotton masks sewn by countless volunteers, small businesses and friends and family across the region. The benefit of these cotton masks goes beyond their effectiveness in preventing airborne spread — they can be washed and reused again and again, preventing another source of pandemic-related waste.

  • Food waste — stocking up on produce to help get you through those quarantined home-cooked meals can result in an unintended consequence: more fresh food than you can eat (before it spoils!) According to the U.S. EPA, organic waste sent to landfills decomposes and produces 18% of U.S. methane gas emissions. Recyclespot has been sharing hints and tips for prolonging, freezing and storing produce as well as reusing food byproducts like corn cobs and stalks. On the wholesale side, Kanbe’s Markets keeps surplus foods from the landfill and gets them into the hands of area residents. Check out their efforts and find out ways you can help at kanbesmarkets.com

  • Household hazardous waste — extra paint and varnish from home improvement projects undertaken during quarantine time can be collected at one of several facilities throughout the region, or at any of the scheduled collection events. Important programming note: some events have been canceled at local municipalities. Check Recyclespot’s schedule for the latest up-to-date changes.

  • Glass recycling — lastly, we know a lot of you have needed an occasional adult beverage to help take the edge off. This is a good time to remind everyone that if you don’t have curbside glass collection in your neighborhood, Ripple Glass remains committed to operating their iconic purple bins around the region. Search for bins on Recyclespot.org. Pro tip: try to find retail clusters with plastic bag returns and Ripple Glass bins that share the same parking lot.

More in-depth information can be found at RecycleSpot.org.