Waste Management During COVID-19

Posted April 3, 2020

During the current pandemic, most businesses and services have been required to close to reduce the spread of COVID-19 except those that have been classified as essential services. Waste management has been deemed an essential service and is continuing with regular pick-up services and operations.

Waste Management Industry Response

The Ontario Waste Management Association has asked waste workers to treat waste that is potentially contaminated with the virus causing COVID-19 as normal waste with the standard protective equipment and practices in place. and. Workers in the waste industry are and should continue to be provided with personal protective equipment. Opportunities for physical distancing and other best practices for managing the spread of COVID-19 such as increased hand washing should be put in as part of new measures implemented during the pandemic.

Changes to Residential Waste Management

Across Ontario, many municipalities have established temporary measures related to curbside pickup. For example, the City of Toronto, Region of Waterloo and the City of Kingston have asked for used tissues and wipes to be placed in plastic bags then put in garbage bins, when they were previously accepted in organic bins.
Durham Region and the City of Orillia have allowed residents to place extra garbage bags out during regular garbage pickup days without requiring garbage tags. Many municipalities are currently not picking up oversized items or yard waste in order to divert workers towards garbage, recycling and organics collection.

When it comes to municipal drop-off waste depots or special waste collection facilities, many of them have either reduced their hours or closed completely for now to encourage physical distancing and protect workers. The City of Toronto has closed all transfer facilities to the general public and is not accepting household hazardous waste. The Region of Peel’s Community Recycling Centres are not accepting electronics, tires, or large appliances, and they are not accepting cash payments. York Region is canceling future repair cafes and not accepting cash at waste depots. For waste haulers or contractors, these changes should not affect them but it’s a good idea to verify with regular drop-off facilities or management.

Overall, the general recommendation from all municipalities is to place any items such as used tissues or wipes that may have been in contact with COVID-19 in plastic bags, instead of allowing them to be loose in waste bins. For residents, check with your local municipality for the most updated guidelines.