I think recycling took a big hit during the pandemic.

NY had just instituted a ban of plastic bags right before the pandemic hit. People were expected to bring their own bags when they went to a store. I had no problem with this rule- I always bring my own bags when I shop. I think it’s better for a variety of reasons.

But…

After the pandemic hit, this new law pretty much went up into smoke. Stores did not want you bringing your own bags: they feared cross contamination. If an employee touched your bag and got sick….full body shutter at that thought…Trader Joe’s in my neighborhood actually forbade it. Customers had to stand five feet away from the register as the clerk packed your food in paper bags… TJ has backed off slightly on that policy though. When I passed a Trader’s the other day, it appears that if you want to use your own bags you must exit the store with your cart, and bag your groceries outside on tables provided…How many rainy days will that last? or, a New York winter?

Disposable masks are being, well, disposed. Everywhere. Some make it to the garbage, others not so much. And who is going to pick up an errant mask off the ground?

Some stores are handing out disposable gloves to patrons as they walk in. See disposable masks for what’s going to happen to these…

Straws are back in vogue because you can wear a mask and sip a drink…

Outdoor dining establishments are sometimes using disposable plates and glasses…

Things are being wiped down with fresh new wipes every time. No one seems to re using sponges or rags because of cross contamination. Clean something- throw out the cleaning tools…

I’m on a reading facebook group. There are many people who are afraid to use books from the library. One post reminded people not to wash their library books because the pages will stick together (true story). Libraries are instituting sanitation protocols including holding books for 48 hours before relending. How long till physical library books are a thing of the past?

Thrift shops. I happen to live in a neighborhood that contains about five donation/resale/thrift stores. Only one has reopened. Along with budget shortfalls, some of these stores are worried about taking in and selling used items. Does a second hand store have the budget or means to make sure that every item is safe? More importantly, are people willing to buy used items? The stores near me banned taking in anything to do with children (toys, furniture, baby items) years ago because of safety and liability concerns. Now how’s it going to be? I cleaned out some stuff during quarantine and I want to donate it. I asked the woman at the thrift store if they were taking donations…”Well…sure….she nodded.” But she hesitated just long enough to wonder if I should actually bring over the stuff that’s been hanging out in my living room corner…

So…

How do we work around out new need for cleanliness and sterility with an attempt to go to zero waste?

How do we reduce, reuse and recycle now?

79 thoughts on “Recycling and the Pandemic

  1. It’s a very good question LA. They say the environment has benefited from the reduction in travelling and fumes producing from that but you’re right about recycling. We had weekly kerbside recycling collections before the pandemic hit and then during lockdown those disappeared AND the recycling centre was closed. They are starting to resume business now but I’m not sure what the impact from that will have been. We also have disposable masks and gloves strewn everywhere! So frustrating! I don’t understand why people can’t just use a bin (trash can). 😝

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    1. I’m guessing that the new giveaway will be reusable masks with a big warning that you need to wash them….but I just wonder how many people will reuse things.

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  2. I use. a cloth mask, mainly because it’s easier to locate when I need it. I wash it, but wonder how many people are walking around with dirty masks. As for recycling, yes, we had the same problem in CT. Just as everyone got used to bringing their own bags, they brought back the plastic during the pandemic. Not sure what the solution is.

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  3. Been wondering the same thing. I did look into teatree oil as an antiseptic but apparently no – this and other essential oils don’t cut it. I guess using cloth items that are then washed and re-used – but then the washing machine’s on all the time!

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    1. Then you get into the which is better? Washing or tossing. I have this conundrum with peanut butter. When you’re out of peanut butter is is better to waste water and wash the jar for recycling or toss the jar? Can these things be made compostable? I don’t know what the answer is.

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  4. We typically recycle plastic grocery bags but started throwing them away during all of this so I know recycling has taken a hit. My favorite store for buying olive oil used to give a discount if you brought back your used bottles for refills. Not now and maybe never again. We’re also generating a lot of packaging getting food to go so we can still support our favorite restaurants. I see so many things changing and wonder what our future will be.

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  5. The shift in perspective (it’s no longer a priority?) has happened here, too.

    And what gets my gall…if you wear a mask TO the park (which isn’t required, as of yesterday’s new ruling only indoor venues are mandatory) why why why would you discard the mask AT the park and DROP IT ON THE GROUND???

    Covidiots abound.

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  6. Add gloves to the list of things that are being discarded by tossing on the ground. Otherwise, you covered the situation well including some things I hadn’t thought about. On a separate, but related note, I had to go in a bank yesterday to open a new account. Pre-Covid I don’t think I would have been allowed IN a bank with a mask. Now it’s mandatory. I wonder how this affects airport security too. Right now I just want to get money back on plane tickets to go to NY. I think the best they will do is issue a voucher.😟

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, since NY might not let you in without quarantine….you can probably find a loophole….I had to go to ATM last week. They had a security guard there which I guess will become the new normal

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      1. Unfortunately, the closest flight I could get for Chautauqua was Cleveland where a brother could pick me up and take me to the now-cancelled Chautauqua summer program. So I don’t know if your suggestion would “fly,” but I appreciate the suggestion and will give it a try.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. There isn’t ONE area in life right now– schools, flying, recycling, working, giving birth, dying..that hasn’t been affected by COVID and not one area that doesn’t need to be rethought as to how to manage the process differently. It’s a rubic’s cube of constant reconfiguring.

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    1. That’s a great way to put it…a rubrics cube…because we are going to twist and turn and try to get the colors in order but will maybe only get one or two sides at a time…I don’t know what we do about any of it….

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  8. Clothes and other textiles brought into my home sit in the bags for 2 days (or more) before I actually take them out. I still use my cloth shopping bags, I just have the cashier make a pile or hand items to me and I bag them myself.
    Of course, I live in Texas, where even exploding case counts can’t make people fear the coronacooties🤨

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  9. Recycling went by the wayside here to. Totally drives me insane that my groceries are put in those plastic bags. Now our weekly recycle service will no longer take the plastic grocery bags. I repeatedly ask for paper but frequently they are out of paper bags. I’m of the mindset of just let me use my own, I’ll take the chance!!! I will even fill my own bag at the grocery store if it means I don’t have to use their silly little plastic bags! But no, can’t even bring my bags in! Well! Looks like you got me on a rant this morning!! Lol!! Time for another coffee!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My grocery store implementing a no reusable bag policy was *maddening* to me. I hope things will go “back to normal” in terms of reusing things once this is all over, but I think it’s possible we may have taken a HUGE step backwards in our movement towards less trash. 😦

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  11. I have no problem with grocery stores banning reusable bags for now.

    Many other things I see businesses/governments doing in response to the pandemic I am not sure about, or wonder if they are grounded in actual science.

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  12. Very very good question. And there seems no easy answer. We have not been able to return reusable wine bottles so I have a good stockpile! I am worried aside from that about our genuine attempts to recycle and reuse. A different world.

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  13. I have a wall full (literally takes up one wall in my bedroom) full of stuff that I was holding on to so that we could have a yard sale…guess I’m going to have it around for a while because I don’t know if our donation places are open yet either. While our grocery store was using paper bags I took them because we use a paper bag as our recycle container but when they started giving out the plastic bags I stopped and now I just put my groceries back into the cart and then put them in my own bags in the trunk of the car. Works fine, even faster because I’m not waiting for someone else to bag stuff and I can organize it the way I want. Spent $400 yesterday so you know i had some stuff!

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    1. I made sure I donated my stuff yesterday just in case they decide to stop taking stuff. I actually like bagging my own groceries…I know how I like the weight distributed and beside the waste of plastic bags, they’re not easy to walk home with!

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  14. Library books here are left for 72 hours before they are cleaned and put back into re-circulation, but they had such a great response to curbside pickup June 9 that I don’t think there’s a danger of physical books disappearing for awhile. So many seniors don’t do e-books and others like me just prefer a book in hand. A timely topic, as I’m posting a book review tomorrow on a recycling book I read recently, but I have no idea what to do with all the stuff I set aside in January for a garage sale this summer?

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  15. Some excellent questions! The same is happening all over the world. I will be returning to work at the library on Friday. It will not be open to the public, however. Patrons can order books online and pick them up outside of the library where they will be placed on a table after the patron calls in to say they are there. We had made so many great strides in recycling, reusing, etc. It’s going to be a huge challenge to deal with this added strain on the environment.

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  16. Hmm interesting posting, my mother volunteers in the ‘Helen House Hospice Shop’ and like you say she said there just isn’t the room to store everything, not forgetting in a charity shop everyone’s picking up things to inspect as they wander round. Mum’s 76 (I think lol) and she isn’t going back which is a shame.

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  17. I’m in Broward County, Florida and in a complex with large dumpsters for recycling products. Nobody uses them correctly, but the trunk is here every Tuesday morning to empty them! I don’t know if they are actually being recycled or just being trucked to the dump – no one has said anything. Our grocery stores are still allowing reusable bags and nobody is forcing gloves. I strongly suspect that people. have one mask and use it whenever necessary. The people I know don’t want to be bothered with masks in the first place, so don’t care about the germs. It’s interesting, the questions you raised, as I honestly never gave it a thought before now. You’re completely right about peanut butter jars, but I do wash them out – cursing the entire time.

    Thanks for a thought provoking blog!

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    1. It’s been eye opening to watch this unfold. Everyone is so germ phobic now (talk about OCD rising) and if Theresa hint that something isn’t clean…..I just don’t know where we go from here

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  18. Our store banned your own bags, so we are left with paper, even in the self check out lanes. We are still looking at ways to reduce and one we’ve just recently started is a milk delivery service that uses glass bottles that you return. As for most other issues, we just don’t eat out right now and the majority of any recycling we create comes from only the grocery store and the occasional shipment.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The thing this company has going is really kind of amazing. They also offer all kinds of other things they’ve partnered with other local vendors to provide. All of it delivered to you with your milk. And yes, it is so much better coming in glass.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Probably not the way this company does it. We have to have a cooler on the porch for them to deliver to. It would be easy enough for someone to just come swipe it. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that if we lived in another area. They do also distribute to grocery stores, but I don’t know that you get the same return on the glass bottles that way if you don’t to the delivery.

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  19. Good thoughts to contemplate. We can’t use our own bags here either. Of course, I’ve touched the merchandise to put in my cart, touched it putting it on the cashier belt and they touched it when picking it up to scan….so…..putting it in a cloth bag will make a difference? I shake my head at the thought of all the waste people are producing with the disposables. But, I shake my head at a lot of things these days. I don’t know how we move forward either. I suppose we all now will need to prepare to quarantine, wear masks and gloves all the time every time there is a new virus threat. it’s so hard to know what to believe anymore. Hope you and yours are safe and well. xoxo

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  20. It is challenging to remember to bring everything with you. The other day at the health club I went as instructed with the mask and forgot the towel.
    I bring a bag with ice when we go to the beach and pick up items and carry sodas with us. This morning I thought I packed too many hats and not enough bags. I have cloth bags, plastic bags, etc. in the trunk yet I try not to junk it up. I hope libraries never disappear!

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  21. I think it should be mandatory to recycle no matter the situation! Our planet doesn’t need more one use plastic waste! As far as masks. Make a fabric mask and reuse, wash! Washing things down with a wash cloth was used for centuries before those damn one use clothes. Get a grip folks! Cross contamination is not a worry if properly washed. I think the entire issue is education. Somewhere along the way people forgot to teach the next generation the basics. If everyone took he time to carefully do things, be respectful of others space, not be in a hurry, and return to the practices of long forgotten cleaning and sanitary skills we would not only help in controlling this virus but help the planet heal from the excessive commercialization.

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    1. Recycling has taken a huge hit here. And will continue as long as people continue to be infected. I’m not saying it’s right…I’m just stating what is actually happening

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  22. I have struggled with this from the beginning of this pandemic. Our grocery stores have relaxed a bit here, but we do have to bag our own. I don’t mind. But the masks and gloves that are being disposed of it startling. When I must handle cash at work, I do don gloves, then immediately dispose of them. Yes one transaction at the cash. Why can’t people just use debit/credit cards !!! It will interesting to see if the positive effect from the decreased travel will be negated by all this extra plastic?

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  23. When the Pandemic hit here, we were told no reusable bags, boy am I sick of those plastic bags! We have the bottle bill here, where you pay a deposit for bottles and cans, but the stores are not taking them back, even though they get crushed in a machine and no-one handles them except the person bringing them back. Haven’t checked with the liquor store yet. All the take-out food with it’s packaging is another problem. Trying to help those small local businesses but cannot recycle the take-out containers. Now that it is going into plastic free July I will do my best, but really cannot be plastic free and not for a good long time.

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  24. I’ve wondered that every time someone says that this pandemic is helping the environment. Yes, the air is cleaner and the rivers are clearer, which is a good thing for sure. But all the disposable masks, gloves, plates, utensils, etc., as well as how hard it is to donate anything now is not a good thing. On the upside, the grocery stores here are now once again providing a bin to recycle plastic grocery bags in.

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    1. Problem with cleaner air and water is that it’s short term. When we gear up, it all goes away. We have “banned” plastic bags here, so we don’t even have a way to dispose them….how dictatorial do I sound if I say the greatest problem we face is overpopulation?

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