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EARTH DAY 2020: SWANA encourages responsible recycling during pandemic

More than ever, it is important to recycle right and follow guidelines provided by local solid waste providers

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The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) encourages everyone to celebrate Earth Day's 50th Anniversary. Founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, Earth Day remains an important reminder about our responsibility for the environment. 

While many are staying home to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 this Spring, there remain many ways to celebrate and help the planet.

The solid waste industry, including recycling, has been designated as a critical, essential industry by the U.S. federal government, states, and Canadian provinces. Curbside collection of residential waste and recycling has increased by up to thirty percent as most residents are staying home. 

Recycled material is used as feedstock for the manufacturing of packaging products used to fight the spread of COVID-19, including sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. Also, with increased e-commerce demand, thousands of essential products are arriving at homes throughout the U.S. and Canada on a daily basis, packaged in material often made from recycled material. More than 75 percent of U.S. paper mills use recovered fiber for their production needs, and the majority of the feedstock used to make toilet paper is recovered paper.

Demand for recovered paper has risen with stores closed and as more Americans and Canadians work from home. Corrugated cardboard and mixed paper prices have increased as people use e-commerce for a growing number of items and businesses generate less paper. The clean material you place in your recycling cart will become feedstock for a future product, creating jobs and reducing the impact on the environment.

More than ever, it is important to recycle right and follow all guidelines provided by your local solid waste service provider. Containers and paper should be clean and dry before it is placed in your recycling bin. Plastic bags are not recyclable in curbside programs, but can be returned to retail establishments such as grocery stores. Lithium ion batteries and flammable materials such as pool chemicals should never be recycled or thrown away in curbside collection, as they often cause fires and explosions at recycling facilities and in collection trucks.

Instead of Spring Cleaning and going through basements, attics, and garages to identify and get rid of unwanted items, SWANA encourages Americans and Canadians to delay such activities to reduce the pressure on the residential waste collection system. Residents should take note of what they possess and organize it for future disposal or donation and should reduce what they purchase in the future, and encourage waste reduction.

Materials that are discarded should be disposed of properly. There are many media reports of people tossing used gloves and masks on the ground or in the street. This is littering, illegal, and can have adverse public health and environmental impacts. SWANA urges Americans and Canadians to dispose of these items properly in a securely tied garbage bag, cart, or bin.

 Earth Day is as an opportunity to learn new and sustainable habits that should be applied now and in the future. Every small change in behavior will help make our neighborhoods, communities and planet a healthier, happier place, for ourselves and future generations.

For more information on what SWANA is doing this Earth Day, visit

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Silver Spring, MD
US, 20910


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