From the frontlines: Tips for recycling right in the pandemic

Here’s how to help Waste Management’s Snohomish County reduce waste during the COVID times.

For Snohomish County residents, this unprecedented time is an opportunity to come together in support of each other and our community’s essential service providers.

Your Waste Management drivers are delighted to see thank you notes and children waving from windows as they collect on regular schedules. Your Waste Management team also appreciates your care when it comes to setting out your recycling, garbage and food and yard waste.

Here are some important tips straight from the frontline workers who are proud to serve Snohomish County.

Keep recycling right

Despite COVID-19, recycling is still being collected in Snohomish County, processed and turned into new materials. Things like cardboard and paper can have a second life as toilet paper, food packaging or other essential supplies. To ensure all materials are fit for remanufacturing, empty all bottles and cans and place them loose in your cart. Remember, no plastic bags in the recycling! Bagged recyclables often look like garbage at the recycling facility and end up at the landfill.

Check your recycling guide for a complete list of accepted materials at www.wmnorthwest.com. Items such as gloves, masks, take-out food containers and disposable wipes are not recyclable.

Reduce food waste

As families reduce the number of trips to the grocery store, meal planning is more important than ever. Before you shop, check your fridge, freezer and cupboards so you can plan meals with items you already have. A family of four can save $1,500 per year by reducing food waste.

One common cause of wasted food is throwing it out before it’s gone bad. Labels such as “use by,” “sell by” and “best by” are misleading and result in 90% of food being thrown away too soon. Except for infant formula, manufacturers use date labels to indicate peak quality, not food safety. Instead of tossing food out based on date, trust your senses! Does it look good? Does it smell good? If so, it’s likely still delicious.

For odds and ends that don’t make it into a meal, get creative! Toss overripe fruit into a smoothie or wilted veggies into a soup. Stale bread is great for breadcrumbs or croutons. Check out Waste Management’s food storage and waste reduction guide for more tips.

Food scraps that can’t be eaten should go in the food and yard waste cart. Composting food scraps allows them to naturally cycle back to the earth as nutrient-rich soil.

Bulky waste? Store it for later

Waste Management has temporarily suspended bulky waste collection so all available resources may be dedicated to regular curbside collection. Please do not place bulky items at the curb at this time.

Collecting bulky items such as mattresses, furniture, appliances, building materials, scrap metal and wood scraps often requires multiple employees and additional resources. If possible, we recommend storing these items until further notice.

You can also check the Snohomish County website to see if your nearest transfer station is open and if there are restrictions due to COVID-19. When curbside bulky waste collection will resume has yet to be determined. To check for updates, go to www.wmnorthwest.com and click on “Service Alerts.”

Take care when setting out your cart

Another way to show your support is to make sure all garbage, recycling and compost material fits inside the cart with the lid closed. Overloaded carts can spill when the truck picks them up, causing a mess for the driver to clean up by hand.

For items that won’t fit in the cart, follow instructions specific to material type:

Extra recycling: Place in a cardboard box, paper bag or a personal can labeled “recycle.” (Again, never put recycling in a plastic bag!) Break down cardboard boxes and, if needed, cut them up to fit in your recycling cart. There is no charge for extra recycling.

Extra food and yard waste: Make sure all food waste fits in your cart. Place extra yard waste in a cardboard box, personal can or Kraft paper bag labeled “yard.” Branches can be cut into 4-foot lengths and tied with twine. There is a charge for extra yard waste.

Extra garbage: Place in a plastic bag or put bags in a personal can labeled “garbage.” Make sure all bags are securely tied. There is a charge for extra garbage.

For more on how to set out extras, check out www.wmnorthwest.com and click on “Service Alerts.”

Finally, we need your help during the pandemic to make sure your Waste Management carts are “placed and spaced” properly. This is especially helpful now because a lot of us are working from home. Many streets are lined with parked cars, which can easily block carts.

The best plan is to place carts in the street, against the curb with the lid opening facing the street. Place each cart at least three feet away from other carts, mailboxes, cars, trees, etc.

These simple steps can go a long way to help your frontline team keep Snohomish County clean, safe and recycling right. Also know that your Waste Management team is diligently following social distancing protocols, regularly disinfecting surfaces and using the required personal protective equipment — because we’re in this together. Thank you and be well.

Hannah Scholes is leading Waste Management’s COVID-19 digital outreach to help businesses and the Snohomish County community position for recovery. Send your questions to recyclenw@wm.com.

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