Workplace exposures Administrative/support/waste management/remediation

COVID-19 pandemic: Association asks public to help keep sanitation workers safe

Photo: Minertree/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — The Solid Waste Association of North America is asking the public to take simple steps to help protect sanitation workers from exposure to COVID-19. That includes holding off on cleaning projects that generate large amounts of trash.

According to a press release from SWANA, residential waste collection has increased up to 38% in some communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting workers at risk. “You’re picking up waste from homes where people may have COVID-19, and so there’s concern about exposure to the virus through the trash,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman told Safety+Health.

Citing research that shows the coronavirus may last on cardboard for 24 hours and live on plastic for up to three days, SWANA offers several recommendations for safely disposing of waste and recycling materials. They include:

  • Wash your hands before taking out trash and recycling containers.
  • Sanitize container lids and handles.
  • Don’t place plastic gloves, masks and other medical waste in recycling bins. Put them in your trash can.

Other ways you can help, Biderman said, are breaking down large cardboard boxes to make sure they fit inside your recycling bin; and taking the time to empty, rinse and dry other recyclable items such as plastics and glass.


“There’s a lot more recyclables being generated, and so people need to really know how to manage that material in their home and put the right stuff in the blue bin,” he added.

SWANA recommends you check with your service provider about potential changes such as temporary closing of drop-off centers or suspension of yard waste collection.

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