Home & Family
As the world calculates the economic impact of COVID-19 on daily life, some environmentalists believe it is giving planet Earth a big break. With restrictions on the movement of people, countries such as China, Italy, and the United States have already seen a reduction in air pollution. Gas emissions that warm the planet have also declined. The one area, however, that is causing concern for homebound consumers is the handling of recycled waste through curbside services.
What is curbside recycling?
Curbside recycling involves the pickup and sorting of recyclable waste, such as plastic bottles, cardboard, and mixed metal and paper. Unfortunately, many curbside programs are being halted or have reduced services because some countries can no longer ship waste to China. The alternative for municipalities is to pay higher prices to recycle materials or to send all waste to public landfills. In the wake of COVID-19, however, waste management companies have another concern.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the virus can live on plastic and other surfaces for three days. Therefore, municipal governments have stopped offering curbside services or have restricted the pickup of any loose recyclable materials not placed in plastic bins or bags.
What can consumers do?
Whether you are at work or working from home, here are a few things you can do to help the environment.
Think twice before using single-use plastic. Reduce the use of plastic bottles and plastic baggies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States recycles only about 30 percent of plastic bottle waste. And using two plastic baggies each day adds up to 60 a month. Try drinking water from, and storing food in, reusable containers.
Recycle paper throughout the day. You can recycle paper even when working from home. Add recycling wastebaskets in your home office or work space. Paper is also compostable. Consider shredding it and adding it to your compost bin.
Buy paper products that are made from recycled paper. Many brands offer copier paper, notepads, and sticky notes that are produced from recycled materials. Using these products reduces the use of trees. You can also shred nonglossy paper and add it to your compost pile.
Store files and sign documents online. With the technology available these days, there is no need to print out documents to sign. Online signing is easy, secure, and doesn’t require paper. The same applies to printed files. They are easier to store, file, and retrieve electronically.
With a little forethought and planning, you can become a better steward of the environment.
Alabama Extension also coordinates electronic recycling and drug take-back days when consumers can drop off their unwanted electronics, prescription drugs, and personal care products. Contact your county Extension office for more details.