How to keep waste collectors safe during COVID-19
TORONTO -- While most of the country works from home to limit the spread of COVID-19, garbage and recycling collectors are still on the job handling potentially dangerous waste.
To help protect those workers, many cities are encouraging residents to exercise extra caution when putting out the garbage -- particularly around sanitary wipes and used tissues -- and to delay their spring cleaning so as to not overload the system.
With nearly 3 million residents self-isolating at home, Toronto has reported higher-than-normal volumes of garbage and recycling being left out on pick-up day. Residents are being asked to bag all garbage and dispose of masks, gloves, wipes, tissues, sanitary napkins and personal hygiene products in the garbage.
And while it may be tempting to get a head start on spring cleaning, the city is asking Torontonians to refrain from putting out any unnecessary waste for the time being and to only put out waste bins for collection if they are full.
Added safety precautions have been made available to collectors, including personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, pre-screening checks before shifts to make sure workers are healthy and staggered shifts to avoid any unnecessary contact.
Residents are also advised to maintain a safe distance of at least two metres from workers during pick-up.
Similar measures are being put in place in Vancouver, where residents are advised that any unbagged or loose items in the garbage may result in bins not being emptied. Anyone who is sick or caring for someone who is sick is asked to double-bag all personal waste and tie bags securely before throwing them out.
Ottawa residents have been asked to place used facial tissues in bags, which can then go in the green bin. Plastic bags are permitted.
In Calgary, residents are advised that collection days could be changing in April, and to check online to see if they are subject to this change. Due to the pandemic, no extra bags of yard waste or garbage will be picked up. Anyone with extra garbage is asked to chat with their neighbours to see if they have spare space.
Many cities, including Edmonton, have shuttered some drop-off centres for garbage and recycling or reduced their hours. If you are considering dropping off waste to a disposal facility yourself, first check online.