Some Pennsylvania recycling programs are scaling back over concerns about exposing workers to coronavirus on discarded material. The Lycoming County Solid Waste Authority stopped accepting recycled materials from recycling dropoff locations over concerns about coronavirus, but the facility hopes to resume the service, said Jason Yorks, director of the county’s resource management service.
Those concerns were two-fold, he said. For one, the county relies on work-release inmates to sort the recycled materials and the county stopped releasing the inmates, so they weren’t available, Yorks said. The hand-sorting process is needed to remove material tossed into the bin that isn’t recyclable, and there are usually 20 to 25 people sorting “in a tight area” that doesn’t allow for social distancing.
Second, the guidance available to county officials wasn’t clear on how long coronavirus might linger on waste products, he said. Some estimates, including research published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, indicate coronavirus can be a hazard for as much as three days. Yorks said some recycling collection facilities have been working around those concerns by letting the waste sit for a period of time before sorting it.
Lycoming County — which also takes recyclable materials from dropoff locations in Union and Snyder counties and part of Northumberland County — just decided to close down recycling for the time being, he said. It’s not clear how many recycling programs have dialed back their services or stopped them entirely. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania said it hasn’t been tracking the issue.