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The Resource

COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates and Guidance

The County is taking a number of actions to keep residents safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Find status information for County operations and services.

The Resource

by Richard Keller, Department of Public Works

Photo of a trash truck collector

The coronavirus has dramatically altered everything in our society, including closing schools, houses of worship, bars, restaurants, stores, gyms, movie theaters and many other businesses and institutions. Most non-essential activities and travel have been curtailed. Many of us are teleworking instead of working from our offices.

The coronavirus is also having an effect on the solid waste and recycling industry, which is closely monitoring the virus’ spread. Trade groups have postponed or cancelled most industry trade shows. Recycling and waste companies are following the procedures recommended for all businesses: using proper PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gloves and safety glasses, creating distance between employees, encouraging sick employees to stay home, teleworking and ramping up cleaning. The Solid Waste Association of North America currently recommends that workers follow traditional safety practices, but does not recommend any special precautions to protect workers from the virus. Other leading waste, recycling and health organizations (such as CDC and OSHA) echo that there is no elevated risk. 

An issue for all waste and recycling businesses will be employee absenteeism due to the virus. Businesses will need to adjust to the shortage of staff and employees may have issues with compensation and leave. The remaining workers may also face increased fatigue due to additional job demands, which could affect health and productivity.

On the recycling side, while most communities (including Baltimore County) are committed to maintaining their recycling efforts, some places are temporarily suspending collection (because of hand sorting of recyclables) while others are temporarily closing drop-off sites, due to concerns over social distancing and contamination in recycling, such as tissues, hygiene products and medical waste.  

Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) face challenges of having healthy staff to operate the facility and the need to maintain social distancing. Others are adjusting shifts to limit the number of employees working at any one time.

One challenge to consider for the future is the effect of the coronavirus on recycling markets. China has faced challenges in both the paper and plastics industries.  Because of production slowdowns, there are fewer ships coming to the U.S. This has caused a shortage in containers returning to Asia and rising costs to ship recovered paper. It appears, however, that these industries are moving back toward normal production.  

Rendering of COVID 19

It is also unclear how any slowdown in the U.S. economy will affect markets for recyclables. If industries slow production, it may have an effect on markets, since recyclables are the first step in the supply chain.  There could be a supply glut, which could affect market prices for communities. There is also the possibility that there could be disruptions in the market where there may be no outlets for certain recyclables.

These issues emphasize the importance of developing programs to create markets for recyclables and use products made with recycled content. This year, the Maryland Recycling Network worked with Delegate Dana Stein to develop House Bill 1452, which would have established a statewide market development program to encourage existing businesses to use more recyclable materials, attract new businesses to use recyclable materials and encourage state agencies and others to use products with recycled content. The bill was one of the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, as the bill died when the legislature adjourned early. It is important, however, that we continue the effort to encourage local and regional markets for recyclables and use recycled products, to improve the local economy, create jobs and reduce transportation costs.

For residents, make sure to tightly bag trash such as tissues or similar items so they do not put workers at risk. This is also a time to redouble your efforts to reduce contamination (non-recyclables) in your recycling container. Keep items such as facial tissues, paper towels, diapers, dog waste, cat litter and sanitary products out of your recycling container so that your materials do not expose collectors and MRF workers to potential health hazards.

No one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will last. But like other industries, the waste and recycling industry is adjusting to the “new normal.”

By Anne Marshall, Department of Public Works

Before and after photo of a county facility cleaning crew cleaning effort

If you live in Baltimore County, there’s a good chance you have encountered at least one Bureau of Solid Waste Management employee. Whether they are a customer service representative addressing questions via phone and email, an attendant staffing one of the County’s three drop-off centers or an outreach specialist presenting to school students and community groups, members of the Bureau frequently interact with the public as they strive to keep the trash and recycling program running smoothly each day.

However, some Bureau staff carry out important work that isn’t so squarely in the public eye, making a difference behind the scenes in the County. One such group is the County Facility Collection Crew (CFC), who help to ensure that county parks and open spaces are kept “clean and green” for residents to enjoy.

Comprised of 16 employees and two crew chiefs, the CFC is responsible for collecting trash from 422 county parks and local open spaces. This includes the emptying of nearly 2,500 green 55 gallon drums and 125 dumpsters each week, as well as the regular maintenance of these containers. The CFC also handles the removal of items that have (unfortunately) been left in parks and on county property illegally, from “everyday litter” to larger dumped items including tires, mattresses and furniture. Finally, in addition to keeping parks and open spaces clean, the CFC provides assistance to haulers on residential trash and recycling collection routes during times when extra help is needed.

Photo of a CFC truck

With so many parks to keep clean, is there anything residents can do to help? Tim Dunn, Baltimore County’s solid waste operations manager, has some suggestions. “By making sure trash is disposed of properly in barrels, individuals can help reduce the need for litter picking. It’s also important to not use county parks as dump sites; take those bulk items to an appropriate facility for donation, recycling or disposal.”

By working together, responsible residents and the CFC can make sure these public spaces in the County remain clean and safe for everyone. For a listing of major county parks and other facilities, visit the Recreation and Parks Directory online.

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of a wedding dress

More people get engaged around the holidays than any other time of year. With January nearly over, many couples have already begun planning their upcoming nuptials.

Planning a wedding is no easy job, even when you have help. Sadly, while juggling all of those details and logistics, we tend to overlook the massive amount of waste weddings generate. According to, "The Green Bride Guide," by Kate Harrison, the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide.

We reached out to Reverend Laura C. Cannon, owner of the Maryland-based company, Ceremony Officiants, who has officiated weddings across the region for the last fifteen years. She suggests couples think outside the box to reduce waste when planning their ceremony and reception. "We need to start looking at traditional wedding elements from a more environmentally conscious lens,” she said. “While menu cards on the place settings and paper programs for the ceremony are traditional, they are also highly wasteful. Opt for a more eco-friendly approach and ditch the paper altogether, or consider writing the menu and ceremony program on something reusable, such as a mirror or chalkboard."

Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management Communications Specialist Richard Keller is pastor at Christ United Methodist Church of Baltimore County. He has married a number of couples in his 18 years as a pastor and gave us some excellent tips to help reduce wedding waste. “Weddings offer great opportunities for recycling and waste prevention,” he said. “You can do invitations online. If you are printing a program, it can be printed on recycled paper (containing at least 30 percent post-consumer waste). If you are having a reception, consider reusable dishes and drinkware, napkins with recycled content and recycling containers for any aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Ask for tickets to a museum, theatre, sporting event or similar experience instead of more kitchen equipment. Be creative in thinking about ways to recycle and prevent waste.”

Photo of a wedding table setting with flowers

Making sustainability and waste prevention part of your wedding plan can seem like a daunting task, but we have you covered with even more tips to help green your big day.

  • If you use a wedding planner, consider hiring one who specializes in sustainable weddings.
  • Talk to all prospective vendors about their sustainability practices before hiring them.
  • Select a foam-free florist. Opt for native, seasonal flowers. Use potted blooms where possible. Give centerpieces as favors.
  • If the wedding party has bouquets, set the head table with empty vases. When the party is seated at the reception, the bouquets can placed in the vases.
  • Refuse single-use: make sure your vendors do not use single-use plastics.
  • Select a caterer that offers local food sourcing and has practices in place to prevent food waste. If you and your loved ones are preparing the food, choose locally sourced ingredients and use a meal planning tool to help you determine just how much food to make. Make arrangements for leftover food to be donated to a local charity or shelter.
  • Choose a venue that is LEED certified.
  • Look for venues with built-in décor, such as gardens, historic architecture and fine art.
  • Decorate with vintage pieces, natural materials or reused/upcycled decorations.
  • Choose reusable linens and tableware.
  • Use solar lights or candles or LED lighting if needed.
  • Choose low- or zero-waste wedding favors, such as soaps, succulents or chocolate.
  • Choose Maryland-made products.
  • Try to have your ceremony and reception at the same place or very close by. Arrange shuttles and carpools for your guests if needed. 
  • Green your registry: ask for experiences, charitable donations and other sustainable gifts.
  • Have a vintage wedding gown, tuxedo or suit tailored instead of buying one new.
  • Rent tuxedos, suits and other wedding attire.
  • Considering a destination wedding? Make sure it doesn’t leave a huge carbon footprint.  

Find additional green wedding ideas on Brides.com, and visit our website to learn more about waste prevention

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Revised October 25, 2019