COVID-19 is laying waste to many U.S. recycling programs

In a newly published article, authors Brian Love and Julie Rieland discuss the challenges facing the recycling sector and growing distrust of secondhand goods.
COVID-19 is laying waste to many U.S. recycling programs

While bottle deposit stations remain closed, recyclables pile up in basements and garages. David Rieland, CC BY-ND

By Brian Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Many items designated as reusable, communal or secondhand have been temporarily barred to minimize person-to-person exposure. This is producing higher volumes of waste.

Grocers, whether by state decree or on their own, have brought back single-use plastic bags. Even IKEA has suspended use of its signature yellow reusable in-store bags. Plastic industry lobbyists have also pushed to eliminate plastic bag bans altogether, claiming that reusable bags pose a public health risk.

As researchers interested in industrial ecology and new schemes for polymer recycling, we are concerned about challenges facing the recycling sector and growing distrust of communal and secondhand goods. The trends we see in the making and consuming of single-use goods, particularly plastic, could have lasting negative effects on the circular economy.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.