The Effects of CO-VID 19 on Waste Management

The lockdowns around the world in response to CO-VID 19 seem to have had a beneficial effect on the environment. Pictures of usually hazy cities gone smog-free, and even big game wildlife wandering into deserted city centres, began to appear as planes, trains, cars and buses ground to a halt globally, and spaces normally occupied by masses of people were emptied. But despite reduced emissions and restricted opportunities for material consumption, the CO-VID 19 pandemic has made at least one environmental issue more difficult to handle - waste management. 

 Spending more time at home, as almost everyone did during the NZ lockdown, can lead to producing an increased amount of waste. Stocking up on canned or other packaged goods rather than fresh food generates more waste from packaging that needs to be recycled. And it’s not just the packaging of the food itself - shop closures increase the amount of online shopping, leading to the increased use of cardboard boxes.

 Buying lots of food in advance is also more likely to lead to it eventually being thrown away. The bulk of food waste comes from homes, and the loss of the opportunity to eat takeaways or out at restaurants obviously means more cooking gets done at home, making this food waste worse than usual. Adding further to the food waste problem are the disruptions to the importing and distribution of food during a pandemic, increasing the risk of food needing to be thrown away before it even reaches consumers. 

 In some countries, special rubbish collection measures to prevent the spread of the virus mean that more resources need to go into its disposal. In many countries, the guideline for waste disposal from households with infected individuals is for any rubbish to be bagged twice. And in some countries, such as Finland, rubbish from these infected homes is advised to be collected separately, causing energy waste as well as material waste. 

 Perhaps the biggest waste issue caused by the lockdowns, however, is the hold that’s often put on recycling. Depending on the operation, recycling can involve a lot of sorting items by hand, posing a risk of transmission to workers. In New Zealand, many populated areas, such as Wellington and Hamilton, stopped recycling services completely during the lockdown period. Any recyclable waste that people were unwilling or unable to stockpile therefore ended up in landfill. In the UK, where many recycling operations have also stopped, a large increase in the incidence of illegal waste dumping in rural areas has been recorded. Prolonged periods without recycling mean the loss of otherwise reusable materials, and the need for more extraction to replace these resources, adding further to the environmental damage. 

 Here in New Zealand, we are lucky to have come out of lockdown as fast as we did. Now is the time to start dealing with any extra waste we may have generated during the lockdown in an environmentally friendly way. If you’re finding yourself in need of a clear out, look no further than Junk2Go. Instead of looking up skip prices, try our skip bin hire alternative - we won’t take up space in your driveway, and wherever possible we repurpose or recycle the items we collect. Call us on 0800 586 524 today.