During the COVID pandemic, you probably have many things to worry about, so you're probably not focused on recycling. But it's still important to keep recycling. Here are answers to some your frequently asked questions.
Should I recycle during the pandemic?
Yes! Minnesota manufacturers rely heavily on recyclable material to make important products during this pandemic.
Minnesota manufacturers make food packaging that helps keep food protected and ready for sale. They use recycled paper as a feedstock to make cereal and other boxes, egg cartons and egg flats, and cardboard to ship materials needed by food manufacturing and the medical field. White office paper is used to make toilet paper, facial tissues, and other disposable towels. Some of our recyclable material, such as water and pop bottles, are shipped out of state to make new bottles and take-out food containers. Glass is also an important material for beverage and food packaging.
Recycling during this time is critical for jobs and the economy in Minnesota and the United States.
Should I change the way I recycle?
Make sure you are recycling only what your hauler tells you can go in your curbside container. Do not use your recycling as a garbage overflow. Contamination in curbside containers has risen with the COVID-19 outbreak. And that contamination can endanger workers who have to pull out unrecyclable items from the recycling sort line.
As a general rule, you can put the following items in your household curbside recycling container:
- Newspaper and magazines
- Office paper and mail
- Plastic bottles, containers, jugs (#1, 2, 5)
- Steel and aluminum cans
- Boxes: food, beverage, toiletries
- Cartons (aseptic and gable-top cartons)
- Glass jars and bottles
Avoid “wish-cycling,” if you don’t know if something is recyclable, find out. Check with your city, county, or waste hauler for items that are acceptable/not acceptable.
There are many other items such as scrap metal, electronics and plastic bags that can be recycled, but not in your curbside recycling container. These items need to be taken to city or county drop-off sites. If your drop-off site is closed, consider storing these items until the facilities are open again.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves are not recyclable. Those items should be disposed of properly in the trash. See more about PPE in this EPA video: Don't recycle PPE.
What if my drop-off site for recyclables is closed? Or my hauler stops collecting curbside?
Continue to collect and store recyclables if possible. If you need to store recyclables longer than a week or two, make sure they are clean. This will reduce smells and curious creatures.
Are recycling workers safe at their jobs?
Solid waste and recycling has been deemed an “essential service” by the governor’s office. Every effort is made to keep all workers safe, including individuals that collect and process recycling. Besides PPE, workers are encouraged to stay home when they are ill, staggering work hours and breaks, physically distancing while working and frequently washing hands. For more information, check out this fact sheet from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Why is recycled material important to manufacturers in Minnesota and the economy?
The material you recycle is used by more than 260 Minnesota companies to manufacture their products. Minnesota’s value-added recycling manufacturers employ about 18,000 people. And these companies generate approximately $3.2 billion in wages and $665 million in federal and local tax revenue. Overall, recycling adds nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota's economy. Continue to recycle to support our local and global economies.
For more information, check out these videos from EPA about COVID and recycling: