mask garbage on sidewalkA shocking repercussion of the pandemic is one that would never cross the minds of most people. While we are focused on how Covid-19 has impacted businesses, hospitals, and families – there is a major consequence that has gone largely ignored – our trash. While Americans have always been one of the highest consumers of single-use plastics, the pandemic has caused this to increase. Before 2020, there were about 8 million metric tons of plastics being deposited into the oceans each year – many fear that the pandemic has caused this amount to almost double.

The Pandemic and Waste

While healthcare workers have been focused on saving lives, and rightly so, an increase in the healthcare waste footprint could be causing a lot more issues to the environment. Each day, hospitals around the country are discarding thousands of pounds of medical waste. This waste cannot be thrown out like your daily paper, it needs to be processed. As pandemic induced worker-shortages have impacted industry after industry – waste management was not left out. Without employees, many waste management and recycling locations shut down temporarily, some permanently, leaving a heap of medical waste, recyclables, and other classified trash. In addition, some recycling centers and waste management businesses put a pause on processing waste due to the fear of surface transmission of the disease. 

Notably, millions of face masks, both surgical and KN95s/N95s, and other PPE (personal protective equipment) have caused a dramatic increase in waste. Walk by any public trash and you will notice 1 or more discarded face masks- all of which can be blamed on Covid-19. It is estimated that hospitals in bigger areas are producing 7.5 pounds of covid-related medical waste per person per day. In big cities around the world, such as New York City or Jakarta, the rate of healthcare waste has increased 500% since the pandemic began.

Ways You Can Help

When the pandemic began, waste management was not a priority. As we start seeing things get better around the country, it is time to start focusing on decreasing our environmental impact. Here are some ways you can help decrease your waste footprint:

  • Switch to a Better Mask. The CDC recommends wearing an N95 or KN95 whenever possible. These masks are not single-use and have been shown to stop particles better than surgical masks. With these high-quality masks now widely available at most drugstores or on Amazon, ditching the single-use mask is a no-brainer.
  • Buy Reusable Water Bottles. Drinking out of single-use plastic water bottles has always been a problem, but the pandemic made the problem worse. Most emergency response units, hospitals, and businesses switched to plastic water bottles to stop people from touching and using water fountains or sharing cups and bottles. We now know that the virus does not survive well on surfaces. Switching to a metal or glass water bottle will not only decrease the number of plastics in the ocean but be better for your overall health.
  • Be Determined to Recycle. Recycling centers are back open in most cities around the country. When possible, separate your trash and make the effort to recycle. There really is no excuse not to anymore.

Trash is Changing

It is incredible how a pandemic has changed the way we deal with trash. Not only in how we handle it (due to virus spread), but how much we produce, what kind we discard, and where we see waste increasing. We are not out of the woods yet, in terms of the pandemic and negative environmental impacts.

At Roll-Off Dumpster, we are committed to educating our customers on the right way to dispose of their waste. While we offer large dumpsters and the longest rental period in the industry, we are also very knowledgeable when it comes to recycling and can point you in the right direction when you are not sure what, or where, to throw out your trash. We deliver dumpsters to a wide service area up and down the east coast and southern US. and would be happy to assist you! Contact us today for a quote.

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