The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on waste management

The COVID-19 pandemic affected every aspect of our lives. This even included changes in waste management. Although economies shut down and people stayed at home, there was an increase in the quantity of waste produced; this meant that crucial services of waste collection and treatment were still desperately needed. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on waste management being so significant, it meant that the sector needed to ensure the correct protection for both employees and customers. 

Was there an increase in waste production?

Due to so many of us having to isolate and abide by lockdown and social distancing rules, it meant that household waste increased. I am sure you remember the panic buying of toilet rolls and canned foods – even though it is something we are all trying to forget – it is something that played a huge role in the impact on waste management. The intensification of single-use products and panic buying increased both production and consumption. In this time we saw more demand on waste management systems and an upsurge in waste of food and plastic products . Medical waste also became more of an issue during this time due to the amount of supplies – such as face masks – that were being used but not disposed of correctly. 

Was there an impact on waste collection?

methods of waste disposal

If you can remember back to that time, then you’ll remember your bins still being collected each week. Waste collection services were in fact prioritised and in many cases, countries had to reallocate manpower and resources to ensure waste collection could continue to take place throughout the pandemic. Although waste collection still took place, things like tips and recycling centres were closed as they weren’t seen as a priority. However, with these closures came many problems. As people took this time to clear out their homes, they had nowhere to put their unwanted belongings which led to an increase of illegal disposal of waste – this was reported in countries such as Belgium, Portugal and the United Kingdom . 

How was hazardous waste collected?

COVID has now seen 4.8 million deaths, so during the pandemic you can only imagine the hazardous waste that needed to be collected from households of people who had caught the virus. This has to be done slightly differently. As the workers safety was a main priority, there was a new way to collect this waste. It needed to be bagged and bagged again, tied securely and kept separate from any other waste that would then have needed to be left for 72 hours before it could be placed in the waste bin and collected. 

The plastic pollution during the pandemic

Personal protective equipment (PPE) became – and still is – a huge issue for waste management. This is due to the fact it was not being disposed of correctly which was leading to a build up with nowhere to go. This was referred to as ‘a new type of plastic pollution’ and a solution was needed quickly to ensure we diverted it from flowing into rivers and landfill. So, how was this overcome? This type of waste can only be handled by a professional waste management company and will need to be collected for incineration. It works similarly to the collection of hazardous waste; it must be kept completely separate from any general waste being collected. 

teh importance of waste management

Throughout the pandemic we still saw the use of professional waste management equipment to assist in the collection and disposal of all waste. This included things like wheeled bins, compactors and balers – many essential providers  were allowed to stay open such as supermarkets, pharmacists and factories; these would have continued to accumulate waste products such as cardboard and plastics that would need to be disposed of. 

It is easy to see that there was an impact on waste management due to COVID-19. This mainly affected the way in which waste was collected, disposed of and how much waste was created during the pandemic. As we move forward from the pandemic, waste management companies are still finding new ways to safely dispose of things like personal protective equipment and any contagious waste. Having waste collections at the top of the priority list meant that we were able to avoid any serious consequences or waste build up during the pandemic. 

Here at PDE Waste Technologies, we have a range of different waste management solutions to help make your waste and recycling choices clearer. Our expert team is on hand to help with any queries regarding waste technology equipment. Call us today on 01386 860023 or email us at for a confidential discussion about how we can support your business.

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