The coronavirus pandemic has caused an uptick in trash generated—mainly from residential waste streams. This waste, which is being sent to landfills and materials recovery facilities, is producing challenges for the waste and recycling industry, as it works to manage this additional volume.
For workers working behind the scenes in landfills, this situation presents many safety challenges. From shortages of personal protection equipment to handling potentially hazardous waste, these workers are facing many risks while providing services to protect public health and safety.
VICE has more information:
Kyle Dole is a night laborer at the Carbon Limestone landfill in Lowellville, Ohio, which imports residential and hospital waste from New York and New Jersey. Dole begins his shifts at midnight by walking through ten acres of fresh trash and removing plastic sheets laid down over the ever-expanding landfill at the end of each day to keep it in place. Last week, Dole says he stepped on a large-bore medical needle in the landfill that stabbed through the side of his boot into his foot. It sent him to the hospital.
“It didn’t hurt so much as just the fact that I didn’t know what was on it,” Dole, who is 27, told Motherboard. He received a series of shots for his foot to prevent an infection. “This is a big concern for me. I’m very worried about contracting something and taking it home to my wife, two kids, and extended family.”
In recent days, Lowellville workers have seen hospital gowns, needles, biohazard bags, and ventilator tubes while walking through the landfill, which is owned and operated by Republic Services, the second largest private sanitation company in the country.