The COVID-19 pandemic has affected communities in both positive and negative ways.
Reduced economic activity has reduced the number of jobs and, therefore, people driving to work each day. In turn, less traffic has helped to reduce air pollution. Likewise, more people staying home has increased family time together, but reduced employment also has caused economic hardship for many families.
While the full numerical effect of the pandemic will not be known until it is over, one measurable change in St. Peters has been the amount of trash and recycling picked up by city environmental services.
Cheryl Hanks-Sinecki, director of environmental services, said that in comparing April 1 through June 30, 2020, to the same period in 2019, residential solid waste tonnage increased by 21.5%, and recyclables increased by 23%. She said she believes “the increases are due to more people staying at home and eating at home during the pandemic.”
Hanks-Sinecki explained that the top three recycled materials by volume during April 1-June 30, 2020, were cardboard, aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
She said more families are ordering goods on-line using e-commerce, producing an increase in tonnage in cardboard. Regarding cans, she said, “We used to send out a semi-trailer of baled aluminum cans every two months. We’re sending one out every two weeks now.”
While cans, cardboard and plastic bottles are welcome at the Recycle City, some items are not. Hanks-Sinecki explained about three items causing the most problems and harm to the facility’s conveyor system.
“Plastic bags,” she said. “Most bags can be returned to place of origin. Locally, businesses have started to accept those bags again after stopping the service due to COVID-19. This includes Dierbergs, Schnucks, Walmart, and other major chains.”
Pools and pool covers also make the list of offending items.
“They may be plastic but we are unable to recycle,” Hanks-Sinecki said. In regard to food containers that still have food in them or on them, she said, “We are forced to send them to the landfill.”
Two key guidelines for avoiding problems with recycling materials are to throw the item in the trash if there is any doubt about whether or not it is recyclable or if there is any food residue on or in the item.