gloved hand holding black trash bag over a garbage bin for waste management collection

The coronavirus has temporarily prevented us from a lot of our typical activities, but it definitely didn’t stop us from generating trash. If anything, our waste generation as a nation, typically about 2,072 lbs per person per year, has increased by up to 40% during the pandemic. Waste management companies are struggling to keep up with the rising volume of trash. They are doing everything they can to minimize risks for their workers on the frontlines while keeping our cities and neighborhoods clean.


People are confined at home during Spring cleaning season. This gives them more time than ever to go through old belongings that have been gathering dust for years. Food has become a preoccupation. Home cooking has increased, and so has alcohol intake. This causes more discarded grocery packaging and empty wine and beer bottles in the trash pile. Fewer people are recycling, and a lot of recycling and compost units have shut down due to COVID-19 anyway. Home disinfecting with wipes, sprays, and other cleaning products has become a continuous activity.


The growing garbage crisis has caused sanitation departments to call for citizens to be more responsible with the curbside garbage they put out. And there are many ways in which we can step up and assist waste management efforts in these challenging times.


  • Hold back things that can wait until the coronavirus crisis is over. It will help ease the pressure on an overburdened system.
  • Don’t park in front of garbage containers on pick-up days. The job will take up more time for a one-person operation if your vehicle is obstructing the path. Every route has a budget for time.
  • Reduce your driving speed when you see a parked garbage collection truck. Collision with passenger cars is a main cause of accidents.
  • Keep trash carts facing the right way. When the automated arm of a garbage truck lifts and dumps a container, some of the garbage can remain caught in the lip of the lid and scatter on the street. Check for arrows on the container that indicate the side that should be facing the street.
  • Use bags to place your trash in. This makes hauling cleaner, healthier, and easier for waste management workers. Use good quality bags that will not fall apart when lifted.
  • Don’t overload trash bags. Carts over the 200-lb limit and trash bags over the 30-lb limit may not only hurt equipment but could also injure workers.
  • Know which items you can’t include in normal trash disposal (like paint, motor oil, fluorescent light bulbs, electronics, etc.). Take these to a hazardous materials drop-off center. 
  • Clean the handles and lids of trash cans and recycling bins that sanitation workers will physically pick up. This will help curb the spread of the virus among people who are visiting hundreds of homes very day.
  • Leave a small gift like a bottle of hand sanitizer with a note for your garbage collector to find. Or offer him a cool refreshment on a hot summer day. It’s nice to be appreciated for the great work they are doing and the risk they are taking to make sure our families are safe!