COVID-19 Impacts the Waste & Recycling Industry

COVID-19 has had a substantial and unprecedented impact on the U.S. economy. Already, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment with millions more seeing their hours cut or wages reduced. Some business sectors, including those considered “essential critical sectors” like waste and recycling, have largely avoided mass layoffs yet still face several imposing challenges.

Experts predict that somewhere between 10% and 15% of the waste and recycling sector will be impacted by the current crisis, which is a much lower rate than other sectors, including retail, food, and hospitality sectors.

On the other hand, workers in this sector may be more likely to catch the virus as it is difficult, if not impossible, for many to work from home.

So far, nearly 1,000 solid waste employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States and Canada. Fortunately, the vast majority have recovered, and many have even returned to work.

Letzi encourages everyone to show support to those in this industry who work so hard to ensure our cities, towns, and homes are clean and unpolluted. For those readers who may work or have family/friends in this industry, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has established the Sanitation Workers Support Fund to provide assistance to front-line workers in this industry.

Collection workers may qualify if you meet the following criteria:

  • Have tested positive for COVID-19, with a demonstrated COVID-19-related inability to work and/or medical bills;

  • Were laid off because of COVID-19 and continue to be unemployed; and

  • If an immediate family member was a solid waste or recycling collection worker and passed away, whether directly, or in combination with other health conditions, by COVID-19.

We are forever grateful for the front-line workers for continuing to keep our streets and cities clean and are arranging ways to support them financially as well. Meanwhile, at Letzi we are doing our small part by transforming plastic and aluminum waste from local businesses, into jewelry and art for META.

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Based in Arlington, VA