Just a couple months ago, few of us had even heard of a coronavirus. Now, we hear about it many times a day, and it’s changed our lives in several ways.

Parents have had to become teachers, we’re wearing masks to the grocery store, community events have been canceled, and we are physically distancing ourselves from family and friends.

Nevertheless, garbage and recycling don’t stop.

Waste haulers continue to collect garbage and recyclables. The Olmsted Waste-to-Energy Facility is still operating 24/7 to handle our garbage. The Kalmar Landfill is processing bulky items into fuel and depositing non-burnable waste. Materials recovery facilities are sorting out recyclables collected at the curb. The demand for paper and cardboard has increased and plays an essential role in the supply chain. Manufacturing plants are still operating to turn those materials into new products.

These services are an essential part of the response to the pandemic. Men and women in the waste and recycling industry are working to protect human health and the environment. We can help protect them by taking the following steps:

  • Washing our hands before taking out the trash or handling recyclables.
  • Placing all trash in plastic bags and tying the bags shut before throwing them away.
  • Not overloading garbage and recycling containers — each container cover should close completely.
  • Placing all bags and bundles in the curbside container – items left outside the container will NOT be collected.
  • Placing all recyclables loosely in the recycling cart — all items should be clean, dry, and empty.
  • Never placing medical waste such as masks, gloves, wipes, tissues, or other non-recyclable items in the recycling cart.

Our facilities also have had to adapt to serve customers with physical distancing in mind.

Olmsted County Recycling Center Plus has modified its hours and operations. Currently, all business is taking place outside the facility.

Traffic flow has been altered to eliminate close contact and streamline the disposal process. Fee payments require cash or check only, and staff cannot make change or process credit cards.

The Compost Site is open, but we ask that you keep your distance from others while dropping off yard waste or picking up compost.

During this time of physical distancing, you can also start a new recycling practice by not letting your grass clippings go to waste.

Grasscycle is the natural recycling of grass clippings back to your lawn. Grass clippings add valuable nutrients and organic matter to your soil and produces a healthy, green lawn. Grasscycling will save you time and money and help the environment. No bags, no driving, less time on your lawn, and no need to drop off grass clippings at the compost site.

Regarding our Hazardous Waste Facility, it is closed but will re-open again when conditions allow us to do so.

As we move through these unusual times, Olmsted County appreciates your patience and flexibility in adapting to closures and modified services. For everyone’s safety, if you can, please wait to visit our Environmental Resources facilities until Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order is lifted and start a new grasscycle practice at home.

By working together, we will get through this.

Sharon Schriever is the regional programs manager for Olmsted County Environmental Resources.