Waste not, want not

Sustainability May 14, 2020

Waste not, want not

As well as our NHS stars, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted some, perhaps ordinarily overlooked, heroes, including refuse collectors. Those working in the waste disposal sector are included in the government’s key workers list and have continued to work while the country has been social distancing.

However, even with the best protective measures in place, waste collectors are putting themselves at risk daily to keep the country running and prevent unsanitary conditions developing as households ‘lockdown’. They travel in small groups within the bin lorries, touch waste and bin handles and may not be provided with an adequate level of PPE.

So, as you continue to ‘stay alert’ and are potentially creating more waste than usual due to spending more time in you house, spare a thought for our waste operatives and take a few simple steps to make their job easier and safer for all:

Reduce waste

  • Plan your food shops carefully and only buy what you will use. This will ensure you have to leave the house less frequently, and that you produce less waste.
  • Rotate/use food up with a focus on reducing food waste. Store food in sealed bags/plastic tubs in fridges and freezers to avoid cross contamination and use up fresh food in dishes that can be stored in the freezer if it is going to go out of date before it is eaten.

Bin collections

  • If you’re self-isolating and feeling ill, put any potentially infected items like used tissues or cleaning cloths into separate plastic bags and double bag them. These bags should then be put aside for at least 72 hours (3 days) before they go into your external bin.
  • Prepare your recycling to reduce the length of time it takes crews to collect your waste
    • Cardboard boxes – flatten completely ready for collection – the recycling teams do not have time to flatten boxes
    • Tins and jars- wash out and separate so they can be quickly collected – even if you only have one box for mixed recyclables clear separation will speed up the collection times
    • Plastics – wash out and remove lids where fitted, these are often a different plastic type to bottles and milk cartons and crush plastics to take up less space in the recycling vehicles
  • Protect your waste collection from damage by vermin and insects – place lids on bins firmly and wash out containers.
  • Clean your bin and tub handles before and after collection, place any cleaning cloths and gloves used for cleaning securely wrapped in the general waste.
  • Put out your bins/recycling the night before the scheduled collection.

Other waste

  • Avoid bonfires, fire pits and burning of waste – the fire brigade have attended many out of control domestic garden fires in recent weeks and are appealing for people to not burn waste. Airborne smoke also creates pollution and that may aggravate those with breathing difficulties, asthma and hay fever, who are currently home based.
  • Plan the timing for replacing large household items and consider the storage and disposal of the items you are replacing, as you will need to hold on to them until the COVID-19 event has subsided and services return to normal
  • Do not leave donations outside charity shops as most are now closed. Keep items for a future date securely stored.
  • Consider composting. Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It’s easy to make and use. You can find out how to do this on the recyclenow website.

Many waste collections are being shared with other businesses, such as those who normally collect business waste. You can check any specific guidelines and changes to collection and recycling days in your area on your local council website.

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste should not be disposed of with your general waste. Personal waste in the home, while infected with, or suspected of having, coronavirus, would not be classed as ‘hazardous’. However, waste that is ignitable, reactive, corrosive or toxic could be. RSK Response can provide a range of hazardous waste management services, including hazardous waste collection and disposal and site sanitisation. The coronavirus pandemic has called for an additional level and type of sanitisation, of which RSK has significant experience and specialist skills. Our teams, combining their understanding of viral decontamination with the latest disinfectant technology, can provide full decontamination and future protection against coronavirus for up to 30 days in virtually any setting. Social distancing has become the new normal but with some employees unable to work from home, necessary precautions must be taken to help keep workplaces safe, particularly as businesses start to consider protocols for reopening premises. If your office, facility, worksite, vehicles, plant or equipment require decontamination or sanitisation over and above usual cleaning practices, RSK Response can provide a professional decontamination service and lasting protection for up to 30 days throughout the UK and Ireland. Find out more about our coronavirus decontamination and protection services.