How You Handle Your Garbage During COVID-19 Could Save Lives

By Mary Barbato

You may be staying at home during COVID-19, but your garbage isn’t.  How you handle your garbage could save the lives of your community members and those picking up your garbage.


As we know, the coronavirus stays on certain surfaces for up to 3 days, and it is still not clear how long it lives in liquids. This makes packing up your garbage critical so that it keeps those managing your garbage after it leaves your house safe, and it arrives safely to the proper destination for disposal.  Here are some guidelines we’ve come across that have been curated from US national sanitation organizations, and from the sanitation workers themselves.


  1. If you are self-isolating because 1) of fear you have the coronavirus or are a carrier, 2) you have been directed to self-isolate for 15 days, or 3) have been diagnosed with the corona virus, it is suggested that you double bag your garbage securely, and refrain from putting it out for garbage pick up until you have been cleared from having/potentially having the virus, and hold for 1 week beyond before you dispose of it.


  1. If you are not self-isolating because of the above reasons, it is advised to select one large bag and put all cleaning & sanitary waste (used tissues, paper towels, other cleaning and sanitary products & bi-products) in it and double bag it and tie it tightly, then put it in with the rest of your garbage. All other waste should be put in tightly secured garbage bags that are double bagged and put out the night before pick up in your tote.


  1. The virus is known to live up to 3-5 days on certain items. The less handling of garbage your sanitation workers do, the safer they and the community are. Keeping that in mind, all garbage should fit in your tote, and:


    • No loose garbage. This always includes Styrofoam popcorn and shredded paper, which both are not recyclable and should be double bagged.


    • Refrain from overflowing your totes.


    • Refrain from putting extra bags out next to your tote, on top of it, etc. Hold your Spring Cleaning until the virus has passed.


    • Only garbage in your totes will likely be picked up.


    • NO tissues, paper towels, napkins, other cleaning and sanitary products & bi-products, masks, or rubber gloves in recyclables. They are unsanitary and not recyclable. They should be double bagged and put in with the garbage.


    • All recyclables MUST be rinsed clean.


    • Empty all liquids. Liquids can carry viruses and bacteria, and can splash when trash and recyclables are emptied.


  1. Finally, it is strongly advised to USE GLOVES when moving your totes out for pick up AND SANITIZE AND WIPE YOUR TOTES CLEAN. Click here for guidelines from the CDC on the proper way to dispose of gloves.


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