Towns notice larger volumes of trash, recycling during pandemic

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on Phillips Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. Towns are seeing larger volumes of both residential recycling and trash. STAFF PHOTOS/DAN LITTLE

  • Colby collects more residential recycling Tuesday morning in Greenfield. Officials attribute the surge in trash and recycling to people being at home more. STAFF PHOTOS/DAN LITTLE

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. While the department typically collects 60 tons of paper and cardboard in a typical month, that number jumped to 82 tons in June and 80 in July. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Recycling waiting to be picked up Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on Phillips Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. Local public works directors and transfer station managers say an increase in volumes of paper and cardboard can likely be attributed to people receiving more Amazon and eBay deliveries as a way of avoiding shopping in stores STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Recycling waiting to be picked up Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield.

  • Jaymes Colby collects recycling Tuesday morning on West Street in Greenfield for the Department of Public Works. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2020 4:10:42 PM
Modified: 9/13/2020 4:10:41 PM

One person’s trash is another person’s evidence of a global pandemic.

Franklin County municipalities are dealing with an influx of waste and recyclables that started shortly after much of the country began working and learning from home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Various public works directors and transfer station managers say the volume of all materials is way up since mid-March.

Marlo Warner, Greenfield’s director of public works, said his department has seen massive spikes in trash, tin, plastic, glass, and paper and cardboard. He and his counterparts chalk up the latter category to people receiving more Amazon and eBay deliveries as a way of avoiding shopping in stores, where they could be more easily exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Warner explained his crews typically get 60 tons of paper and cardboard in a non-holiday month — the couple of weeks after Christmas always create an increase in cardboard (from gift boxes), and the week after New Year’s Eve sees an abundance of glass and plastic bottles and cups from late-night festivities. By comparison, the department collected 77 tons in April.

Warner credits a dip to 56 tons in May to a backlog at Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service, when the volume of mail orders skyrocketed in the early stages of the pandemic-related lockdown. The number jumped to 82 tons in June and 80 in July.

“The answer is yes, we’ve seen a pretty large influx,” Warner said last week, adding that August’s numbers are not yet finalized.

Garbage and other waste in residential areas have spiked as much as 40 percent in some parts of the country, according to cnbc.com.

Additionally, Warner said his crews have collected at least an extra 100 tons of trash per month since roughly late April or early May, though that volume seems to be decreasing now.

He believes this increase is the result of people staying home and conducting home repairs, producing trash and debris. He also said spring cleaning seemed to last through the summer this year.

Jan Ameen, executive director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, which offers recycling and waste removal services to 21 member towns in Western Massachusetts, also reports an increase in tonnage. For example, Charlemont had 20.87 tons of municipal solid waste in January. It dropped roughly in half for two months before jumping back up to 19.33 tons in April. Heath hovered between 8.3 and 9.3 tons for a handful of months before spiking to 17.05 tons in April.

Kevin Scarborough, the public works superintendent in Deerfield, said the increased volume of trash and recycling residents are producing is evidenced by the number of Dumpsters one sees next to people’s homes.

“People are home, people had nothing to do, so they started cleaning,” he said. “They’re purging attics, basements, garages.”

Scarborough said his workers are also finding more junk — such as air conditioners, televisions and appliances — on the side of the road lately. He said his crews find an average of 10 TVs per month.

Bernardston residents take their trash and recyclables to the transfer station on Nelson Drive, off South Merrifield Road. The facility is also available to Leyden residents, who pay $50 a year for a pass. Brian Miner, who oversees the transfer station and the Highway Department, said Bernardston has seen a sizable uptick in “everything — trash, recycling, bulky waste, compost, metal recycling, hazmat stuff, electronics recycling.”

Miner said it is difficult to determine whether people are cleaning out their residences, or simply producing more waste at home because that is where they are working and learning.

“It’s finally starting to slow down a little bit,” he said.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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