Stay-at-home orders, spring cleaning prompt spike in refuse

By Brandon Martin

One unexpected aspect of Virginia’s stay-at-home orders has been the increase in the amount of waste and refuse. That, combined with the annual ritual of spring cleaning has led to extra strain for local waste management teams.

During normal times, Mike Amos, project manager for Henry County and the Public Service Authority, said that refuse staff typically see the same amount of waste each month. But the longer the stay-at-home orders have lasted, the more strain his staff has experienced.

The increased trash means “my guys have to make more trips to the (First Piedmont) transfer station and more unloading,” according to Amos, who added that most of his workers are 50 years old.

Due to all of the trips and other efforts necessary to manage the increased waste, the county is racking up additional ticket costs “$8,000 larger than normal. One month was even $10,000 more, Amos said.

The increases “are almost certainly due to more people staying at home and collecting more trash. Plus when they get cooped up, they do things to be productive, like cleaning which is also probably helping drive some of the numbers we are seeing, Amos said.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said that the city also has experienced an increase in the amount of residential trash.

Generally, you may see an extra bag or two here and there, but it’s certainly been enough (increase) where our staff has noticed,” he said.

Towarnicki said that the city pays a fixed fee to the First Piedmont Corporation to process the city’s waste. So far, the fee has covered the increases, but more trash “could be a problem down the road if it continues.However, Towarnicki said he “sees the problem decreasing as time goes on.”

Residencies in northern and coastal Virginia also are reporting nearly 40 percent increases in trash collection during the orders.

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission offers the following tips:

*Keep your spring-cleaning pile in the basement, attic or garage.

*Flatten cardboard boxes to create more room in the recycling cart.

*Grass cycle lawn clippings.

*Make sure all trash is in a bag, securely closed.

*No plastic bags in recycling, make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry. Check with your county, city or town for what to include in recycling.

*Dispose of used wipes, tissues, and paper towels in trash bags that are tied shut and placed inside trash containers for disposal.

*Never dispose of disposable wipes, paper towels, rags and similar items in the toilet — these items damage sewer systems to the point of system failures and potential backups.

*Don’t litter — when outside the home, properly dispose of masks, gloves, wipes and other items in the trash.

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