On Monday, June 8, we gathered for our third virtual town hall. Joining us were Siera Wigfield, Recycling Coordinator for Allegany County and Charlie Reighart, Recycling and Waste Prevention Manager for Baltimore County who shared their experiences operating in the new normal imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The two counties differ in the size and scope of their recycling programs yet are experiencing much of the same challenges such as concerns over employee safety, increase in waste volume, and more.

Main takeaway: There is a marked increase in the amount of residential waste collected (i.e., Baltimore County saw a 15% increase for period March 16 – May 9 over the same period last year) as well as in landfill activity. This uptick has overwhelmed residential haulers and collection sites and facilities resulting in temporary reductions or suspensions of some recycling programs.

Listen to the full conversation and see a brief recap below of what was discussed.


First some related news:

Alleghany County:

  • Temporarily suspended its recycling program in March to restrict employees’ exposure to the virus at drop-off sites (recyclables are collected in trailers and require employees to unload accordingly.) The county was able to resume in late May for most materials.
  • Suspended plastics collections until July (tentatively). The county is working on a cost effective, safe, and hands-off method to empty the bottles out of the trailers.
  • Instituted an email/text alert system to keep residents informed and up to date.
  • Looking for a graceful way to empty plastics trailer (see webinar) – suggestions welcome!

Baltimore County:

  • Continued the residential curbside program. The exception was yard waste collection, which was suspended for a time to focus on residential trash and recycling collection. Collections are back to normal schedules.
  • Temporarily closed residential drop-off centers to public to avoid contact between employees and residents. The centers have reopened but are requiring employees and residents wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Experienced a dramatic increase in customer service calls (169% increase from 4/2019).
  • Brought in temporary employees and DPW employees to work in MRF to fill the gap from worker shortage caused by pandemic.
  • Connected with residents via press releases and website updates. Note: asking residents to tie off bags properly to protect collection workers.

* Markets are down but steady except for cardboard, which is up. Be sure to listen to the May 29th MRN Markets Update for more on what is happening now and what’s projected for the future.

Finally, check out the Plastic Film Recycling Challenge for when schools are back in!

Featured photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash