With concerns related to COVID-19 over grocery shopping, particularly for hard-to-find items like toilet paper and facial tissue, everyday recycling may fall down the list of priorities.
But the paper and cardboard that quarantined residents put in the bin is more related to the current pandemic than they might think. Once that material leaves the curb or transfer station, it becomes part of a global supply chain that depends on recyclables to meet the demand of manufacturers making these common products.
With a surge in demand, producers of paper towels, toilet paper, and other paper goods, as well as those who make cardboard boxes used in home delivery and packaging need more post-consumer material, like that processed at ecomaine, to create the supply for grocery stores, essential businesses, hospitals, and more. And residential recycling is one way manufacturers can create that supply.
“Not only are we an essential service during this time,” said Kevin Roche, CEO of ecomaine, “but it’s also critical that facilities such as ours stay operational to help meet the needs of the mills that need our fiber material, who, in turn, fulfill the needs of American consumers. ecomaine is taking precautions so that we can remain active, and we urge our member communities, essential businesses, and residents to continue recycling.”
ecomaine has continued to hear from manufacturers that remain open as essential producers of important products – from tissue paper to boxes and boxboard and packaging – and even of shortages of material in some parts of the world, creating scarcity, due to the lack of regular feedstock.
“It’s coming from all parts of North America, and sometimes even further than that,” said ecomaine’s Recycling Manager, Kathryn Oak. “We have heard the urgency from plants that are working 24/7, and need more material to keep up.”
“With an expansion coming in post-consumer paper and cardboard production in the next few years,” added Roche, “this scarcity could turn into a long-term shortage. We are standing by to try and do all we can to meet this demand, during the current public health challenges, and into the future.”
Furthermore, though ecomaine’s waste-to-energy (WTE) operations present a safe method for the destruction of viruses that may exist in trash, keeping that capacity for truly non-contaminated material is critically important. With ecomaine’s WTE plant nearing capacity, if recyclables are re-directed toward combustion, non-recyclable solid waste that may contain virulent waste could be forced out, toward landfills.
“We have been focused for a long time on making sure the right material is in the right bin,” said Roche. “At this point, under these circumstances, it’s even more important now than ever to keep recyclables in the recycling and solid waste in the trash.”
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“It is important that non-contaminated waste streams, like paper, continue to be separated and recycled as much as possible following the recommendations of virology institutes. WtE capacities must be saved for the non-recyclable or contaminated waste.”