While the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a difficult change in day-to-day business all over the world, companies within the waste and recycling industry are adjusting to the changes caused by the outbreak. Some are even finding positives in this pandemic.
“We are anticipating that the coronavirus’ effects will not be limited to retail/direct services but will ripple through professional services, too,” says Ashlea Smith, marketing manager at Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc., based in McLean, Va. “We’re not sure on the timing of that effect just yet, but we’re focusing on our marketing efforts now to ensure our project pipeline stays full. As for where we are physically working, we are all teleworking full-time for our employees’ safety—and fortunately we’re busier than ever on important project work.”
According to Smith, the pandemic is bringing teams together.
“The thing I find most rewarding is that our team is closer than ever, and we’re all supporting each other during the difficult time,” she says. “Generally speaking, now seems to be a good time for a company to check in on its culture and do what it can to maintain or improve it.”
Pace Glass Recycling, based in Long Island City, N.Y., is seeing some of the silver lining effects of the outbreak on the environment—a decrease in pollution, a wiser use of commodities and the need and habits formed around recycling.
“The novel coronavirus, as terrifying as it has presented itself, is actually bringing out long-forgotten traits that we all have. I am referring particularly to self-sufficiency and preservation—both of which recycling is a prominent characteristic,” says George Valiotis, CEO of Pace Glass Recycling. “I do expect recycling to not only increase during the COVID-19 pandemic but become a staple in our everyday lives as a lesson.”
The need to practice self-sufficiency and preservation during the outbreak can lead to an increase in recycling, with the positive effects trickling into the environment.
“By recycling, you’re supporting a decrease in landfills and incinerator fumes emitted during the burning of landfilled garbage,” says Valiotis. “Additionally … pollution will certainly decrease during the COVID-19 outbreak. China, among other countries, is already experiencing such changes. This is one of the balancing effects and even positive consequences that has sprouted from such an unfortunate global dilemma.”
Social distancing keeps people in their homes, the use of motor vehicles has decreased, the consumption of commodities is being used wisely rather than wasted and people prefer using recycled products to decrease their landfill waste and save costs, says Valiotis.
Valiotis explains that businesses and commercial buildings that do not currently have great recycling systems have likely found themselves now recycling in effort to cut costs and decrease landfill waste.
“Employees, including business and building board members working from home, will likely recycle in an effort to become more self-sufficient and cut living costs, and ultimately develop habits that they will carry with them after the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides,” he says.
But with recycling increasing, the potential for contaminated items reaching facilities also increases. The industry has precautions in place to protect their staff and reduce risk.
“Fear of transmission is certainly on everyone’s mind. While the virus is said to spread mainly through respiratory droplets, we have also heard that the virus can remain infectious for some time on various surfaces,” says Valiotis. “Our industry’s precautions are generally aimed to protect staff from all the viruses and contaminants that they are exposed to. We promote the use of personal protection equipment, including face shields and non-puncture gloves, that we recommend our employees wash on a daily basis.”