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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.

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By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of face masks hanging

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has changed life as we know it, but we can still find ways to live more sustainably during these difficult times. The Resource will publish a series of articles this summer focused on helping you do just that. This month we want to talk about some of the single-use items commonly used during the pandemic and suggest some safe alternatives.

Masks

  • Wearing a mask outside of your home helps protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can reduce waste by choosing reusable (washable) cloth masks over disposable ones. A wide variety of reusable masks are available online, or you may know someone who makes them. You can even make your own mask using leftover fabric or repurposed clothing or linens. Wherever you get your mask, make sure you follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • If you need to wear a disposable mask, put it in the trash after use. Disposable masks do not belong in the recycling, down the toilet or on the ground.

Gloves

Photo of someone scrubbing a counter while wearing gloves
  • According to the CDC, you should wear reusable or disposable gloves for routine cleaning and disinfection. If you choose reusable, the CDC states that those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and nothing else. The CDC also recommends wearing disposable gloves when you are caring for someone who is sick or cleaning a home where someone is sick. Otherwise, wearing gloves is not necessary in most situations. Instead, practice frequent handwashing, social distancing and other everyday preventive actions recommended by the CDC.

  • Put disposable gloves in the trash, not the recycling. Don’t flush or litter your gloves, either. Help us get the message out by sharing our Facebook post about the increase of litter related to the pandemic.

Wipes

  • The use of disposable wipes is on the rise. Remember: Wipes clog pipes and can cause sewage backups and overflows. Do not flush any kind of wipe or towelette, even the ones that are labeled as, “flushable.” Do not litter or try to recycle wipes. Place used wipes in a trash can. Help spread the word about wipes by sharing our social media graphic.

  • You can reduce “wipe waste” by cleaning or disinfecting your home with an EPA-registered disinfectant and reusable, washable cloths instead of disposable wipes.

  • Clean your face with soap and water using a washcloth or your hands instead of facial wipes.

  • Use good old fashioned toilet paper instead of wipes labeled, “flushable.” Keep germs inside your toilet by putting down the lid before you flush!

  • Did I already say not to flush wipes? I did? Okay, good; because it’s really important that you don’t. Here’s why.

Shopping Bags

  • Use washable (reusable) shopping bags if permitted by the store. Make sure to check with the store first. Washable shopping bags can be found online, or you can make your own with materials you may have around the house. If you are able to use reusable bags at your local store, don’t forget to wash your bags following the CDC guidelines for washing clothing, linens and other laundered items.

  • Some grocery stores and retailers have temporarily ceased recycling plastic bags. If you wish to drop off your plastic shopping bags for recycling, your best course of action is to 1) enter your address in the recycle search tool at abagslife.com or plasticfilmrecycling.org to find a drop-off location at a retailer near you and 2) call that location first to confirm that they are currently accepting plastic bags for recycling.

Other single-use items you can try to avoid include individually wrapped snacks, single serving beverages and disposable kitchenware, tableware, towels and napkins.

We hope these tips will help you safely reduce your use of single-use items during the coronavirus pandemic and keep you on track in your efforts to make ours a cleaner, greener Baltimore County. Be sure to keep an eye out for next month's installment of our Staying Green During COVID-19 series, which will more broadly address trash, recycling, litter and waste prevention.

By Erin Watts, Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Photo of a garlic mustard plant

As a natural resource specialist, I am often asked the question, “Is this a weed?” However, there is no “yes or no” answer to this question because a weed is merely an unwanted plant. I prefer the question, “Does this plant belong here?” People have carried plants and seeds from one part of the world to another for centuries. When some plants are introduced to a new area, they become invasive. These are plants you likely have seen taking over a garden or natural area. Non-native plants are also called, “exotic,” or, “alien.”

Non-native, invasive plants present a problem because all the parts of an ecosystem evolve together. When our native plants are outcompeted for light, nutrients and space, they no longer provide resources for the ecosystem. For example, spring wildflowers are disappearing, crowded out by garlic mustard (European) and Japanese stiltgrass, and trees smothered in English ivy are threatened by extra weight and decay from trapped organic material and moisture, which can kill a tree.

Therefore, invasive plants should be removed. Many invasive plants, such as garlic mustard and wavyleaf basketgrass, are easily removed by hand. Some larger shrubs, such as multiflora rose and bayberry, require cutting and digging. If possible, choose these mechanical methods over herbicides. In some cases, select herbicides are warranted to prevent persistent regrowth of certain species, such as tree of heaven, as well as for large infestations and for species that spread by roots (Canada thistle). For more information, refer to Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas, an authoritative guide with removal instruction provided by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
A yard is a great place to start tackling invasives. If you don’t have a yard, there are plenty of areas that could use your help, just be sure to get the landowner’s permission. Once the risk of COVID-19 has eased, our Baltimore County watershed associations are a great source for invasive removal workshops. Learn from the pros and help protect your watershed!
 

Photo of English Ivy
Tips for invasive removal:
• Identify plants accurately, and avoid pulling natives.
• Wear sturdy gloves.
• Work in damp soil to get as many roots as possible.
• Remove plants before seeds develop.
Set out pulled invasive plants with your yard materials, if you're a Baltimore County resident with a separate "Y" collection day; otherwise, dispose of these plants in the trash.
• Do not put invasives into your compost at home to avoid potential spread later.
• Let vines in trees die in place to avoid breaking branches from pulling.
• Some invasives are sold in stores–don’t buy them.
 
Successful invasive plant removal requires a watchful eye and ongoing treatment, but a healthier ecosystem is worth it. Pulling “weeds” also helps us to unwind, so listen to the birds and enjoy.
 
Special thanks to the 5th grader from Rodgers Forge Elementary School who asked the question that prompted this blog post.

Photo credits: Garlic mustard (top) – Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org; English ivy (bottom right) – James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

by Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Image of the earth

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing everyday life here and around the world, most people have cancelled plans and rearranged their lives, and many are learning how to do new things or do things in a new way. Celebrating Earth Month or the 50th Earth Day is no exception.

Instead of attending tree plantings, community clean ups or Baltimore Earth Day 2020 at Oregon Ridge Park—which was set to be the region’s first major Earth Day event—people have found ways to mark “Earth Day Anyway” at home throughout the month of April. In an effort to help people find ways to participate during the pandemic, the Clean Green Baltimore County Facebook page created an “Earth Day Anyway” Facebook Event page and has posted tips and resources for recognizing Earth Month all month long.

Earth Month is now coming to a close, but you can do these things year round to help make ours a more sustainable county and world.

Photo of Marshy Point
  1. Use these tips to save energy at home.
  2. Improve your efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.
  3. Find ways to waste less food.
  4. In the yard: Plant pollinator-friendly native trees and plants (PDF), grasscycle and compost yard materials.
  5. Watch, read and learn about our planet and the ways in which we impact its health. Watch Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s Earth Day video greeting on the County’s Facebook page. Follow Clean Green Baltimore County on Facebook and visit the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy’s “Earth Day Anyway” webpage for ideas and educational resources.
 
 
Revised October 25, 2019