Citing the risks posed by the coronavirus, the Scott administration has joined with waste haulers around Vermont to press for flexibility with the state’s recycling laws. In normal, pre-COVID times, recycling was something most of us took for granted. We separated our trash, and took it to the curb or transfer station.

But studies have shown that the coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and metal surfaces, and up to a day on cardboard. So the trash haulers, who often are the first people to touch recyclables outside the home, say they’re concerned about exposure to coronavirus.

Because of that concern, they say the state needs the legal ability to relax mandates if needed. “I am worried about my men on the street,” said Jeffrey Meyers, of Meyers Container Service Corp. “I got guys coming in that are scared each day.”

Meyers’ company picks up trash and recyclables all over northern Vermont. “There’s going to be certain areas that it’s not safe for my drivers,” he said. “And that’s where we’re looking for the flexibility.” Meyers told the House Natural Resources Committee recently that he’s not asking for a blanket exemption from the law that says recyclables must be kept out of landfills.

He said in urban areas, his trucks that are equipped with a mechanical arm can safely pick up large containers of recyclables. But in the rural areas, a two-person crew usually has to physically handle the stuff. “I don’t expect the tonnage of recyclables to go down in Chittenden County at all,” he said. “We will continue to recycle in certain areas that we can. What I’m concerned about is the areas that I need two guys in trucks and they have to get out and manually pick the recyclables and the trash.”

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Author: John Dillon, VPR
John Dillon, VPR