Why proper trash, recycling and compost in Denver are critical during coronavirus
The dramatic rise in home activity during the Coronavirus pandemic has increased the exposure risk to an underappreciated and essential City of Denver workforce — residential trash, recycling and compost removal.
Each weekday morning, a fleet of roughly 120 garbage trucks operated by about 180 drivers/laborers makes its way across Denver neighborhoods to dispose of the city’s waste. Their jobs have become increasingly critical, too, as the success of Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order has created an influx of residential trash, recycling and compost in Denver, said Charlotte Pitt, the city’s interim director of solid waste management.
As of late Monday, one Denver solid waste management crew member had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the city. He is currently self-quarantined at home and is “doing well,” Pitt said. The virus has currently not impacted residential pickup routes, and the city’s landfill and processing plants are not overwhelmed.
But the city requires public help to ensure waste removal operations continue without interruption — unlike the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, which halted garbage collection services in many cities across the world.
“The things you need to do to properly set out your waste are the same things we’ve asked you to do. Now, they’re really more important than they were before,” Pitt said. “It’s simple things like making sure you bag your trash. That really helps keep the city clean and prevents litter. Don’t overfill your containers. If you’re going to pile bags and bags in a container with open lids, it’s going to fall out when we pick up the (bin).
“Don’t bag your recycling, because that slows down our process, and plastic bags are considered a contaminant for the recycling program.”
The city has also reported a rise in the number of trash, recycling and compost bins not placed on their designated curve at the correct time and location. Denver residents can visit denvergov.org for details on specific waste pickup schedules.
“Your trash, recycling or compost needs to be set out by 7 a.m.,” Pitt said. “We’ve seen a lot of people with their schedule changes set out their carts late, because maybe they didn’t go to work, or maybe they slept in. We’re suggesting you put it out the night before so that it’s not a worry for them.”
The city’s waste collectors were already outfitted with protective clothing before the pandemic. The department has since closed its office space, eliminated in-person contact between employees/supervisors and provided each truck with latex gloves, hand sanitizer and mobile hand-washing stations.
The state mandate to wear masks in public led the city to outfit those workers with bandanas for facial covering. However, a thoughtful community member recently donated more than 100 homemade cloth masks to Denver’s department of solid waste management to be distributed this week.
A thoughtful gesture that, when paired with the public’s proper trash, recycling and compost disposal, makes the city’s waste removal workforce feel appreciated in a time of crisis.
“We have seen some really kind residents showing support for our operators,” Pitt said. “We’ve seen thank you notes in chalk art, signs put up on fences, and we’ve got this lady making us masks. So, the community is definitely recognizing that we’re out in their neighborhoods, five days a week, trying to keep it clean.”
Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order has increased the volume of trash, recycling and compost produced by Denver residents. Here are some tips from the city’s department of solid waste management on how to properly dispose of your waste to protect city workers and the public at large.
— Bag your trash. It keeps the city clean and workers safe from whatever contaminants/materials may be inside.
— Do not overflow your bins. Do this out of respect and care for city employees. Residents don’t appreciate spilled trash being left behind. When trash collectors have to get out of their trucks to pick the trash up, it slows them down and increases their risk of exposure to whatever is contained in the trash.
— Don’t bag your recycling. Bags slow down the process at the recycling center and can clog equipment.
— Set your trash out the night before its pickup date so you won’t forget and be dealing with an overflow of trash the following week.
— Get familiar with your extra trash day and where you can set out additional trash/large items. Make sure you bag that trash.
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