30 Mar Treasure the Trash (Service)
Since the emotional experience of last Thursday night, where people throughout the U.K. gave a glowing display of support for NHS staff at this time of crisis, we wanted to ensure that another crucial public service was not forgotten during the outbreak.
All Rise for the Un-applauded
The night was a fairly memorable occasion for Britain, it felt like the first truly national showing of solidarity since the outbreak of COVID-19 and even perhaps since the general election.
At 8pm, millions of people opened their windows and stepped out their doors to clap in unison in recognition of the amazing work staff at the NHS are doing under these extreme conditions. And the sound of whooping throughout the neighbourhood was reminiscent of Network’s Howard Beale, except people were expressing that they were ‘grateful as hell’ to their carers, doctors and nurses.
Amid those reverent sixty seconds however, it would be easy to overlook another service that is still running despite the risk to the health of its employees: bin collections. Partial closure of some routes notwithstanding, the Department of Waste Management and Recycling and its staff have maintained outstanding consistency throughout the crisis.
Recycling and waste management are a crucial part of effective management and containment of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, since self-isolation measures have diminished their work forces, many councils are having to pause green bin, brown bin and food waste collections due to a lack of staff.
Treasure your Trash Collector
Given the strain this crucial sector is already bearing, below we’ve suggested some habits you might adopt to ease some of that pressure and give back to the service.
Less is More
The first and best habit to adopt is to reduce your waste output and, if practical, re-purpose things like glass and plastic containers, especially helpful if green bin collections have been suspended in your area. Purchasing a coffee flask and personal water bottle can also help reduce your waste output though ideally you’ll only need these items on your commute, if at all.
Since brown bins and food waste are being considered low priority, it behoves those with green spaces to start a compost box for grass trimmings, fruit and vegetable peelings and old mother’s day bouquets. Even if you don’t have a garden, you’re likely to still have this type of waste and to prevent it building up maybe consider donating to a local resident who can use it? (See point 6)
- Use Space Wisely
Space in your outdoor bins, and in waste vehicles generally, will be at a premium over the next few weeks and one technique to taking advantage of every inch of it is eco-bricks. Developed initially as an alternative building material that also reduced plastic waste, eco-bricks are plastic bottles packed with soft plastics until solid. Combine this technique with proper breaking down of cardboard and crushing of cans and cartons to best utilize the reduced space likely to be available.
Reduce their Exposure
Due to the staying power of COVID-19 on surfaces like plastic and cardboard, recent governmental guidelines also recommend that if you’re showing symptoms, any tissues and wipes you’re using should be bagged up separately and left for 72 hours before going into bins. Additionally, consider wearing gloves when taking rubbish out or wiping bin lids down after loading them.
As much a piece of general life advice as anything else, several constituencies have reported large numbers of homes missing their collection due to blocked roads. People working from home obviously means more cars in driveways and on residential streets, take a second to ensure you’re not spilling into the road and holding up your local collectors.
Our last point comes with a major caveat which is to exercise caution, however many communities have used methods like posting phone numbers through letter boxes in order to stay in touch with each other. While, of itself, this will do little reduce waste, it can be used to find out which of your neighbours may have a need for that glass jar you were about to throw out, or a fireplace to put that unused cardboard into. Once again, please wear gloves if depositing phone numbers, make sure you wipe down the surfaces you write upon and wash your hands afterwards if you should receive such a communication.
Our species owes its existence to regular communication and we’re the most remotely connected we’ve been in history, that connection is not to be taken lightly. The most important action we can take at this time, after maintaining social distancing, is finding new and safe ways to show support for each other.