'Waste Today' survey shows widespread industry impact of COVID-19

'Waste Today' survey shows widespread industry impact of COVID-19

The results portray an industry that has seen significant changes in personnel, operations and incoming volumes.

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April 15, 2020

In an effort to quantify the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on waste and recycling professionals in the U.S., Waste Today magazine sent out a survey to industry participants beginning March 24.

Over the next three weeks, more than 150 professionals weighed in on the toll the virus was having on their businesses. The results show an industry that has seen significant changes in personnel, operations and incoming volumes. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Just over 30 percent of respondents report having one or more of their facilities ordered closed by state officials or having one or more facilities idled voluntarily by an operational decision.
  • For those businesses that handle industrially generated materials, 25.17 percent say inbound flow has been severely affected, 25.83 percent say inbound flow has been moderately affected, 15.23 percent say inbound flow has been affected on a minor level, and 3.97 percent say inbound flow has not been impacted at all. (Nearly 30 percent of respondents responded “not applicable.”)
  • For those businesses that handle office- and retail-generated materials, 24.50 percent say inbound flow has been severely affected, 27.15 percent say inbound flow has been moderately affected, 7.95 percent say inbound flow has been affected on a minor level, and 5.30 percent say inbound flow has not been impacted at all. (Thirty-five percent of respondents responded “not applicable.”)
  • For those businesses that handle residential discarded materials, 19.21 percent say inbound flow has been severely affected, 19.87 percent say inbound flow has been moderately affected, 14.57 percent say inbound flow has been affected on a minor level, and 19.21 percent say inbound flow has not been impacted at all. (Twenty-seven percent of respondents responded “not applicable.”)
  • For those businesses that handle material generated at construction or demolition sites, 13.91 percent say inbound flow has been severely affected, 19.87 percent say inbound flow has been moderately affected, 12.58 percent say inbound flow has been affected on a minor level, and 7.28 percent say inbound flow has not been impacted at all. (Forty-six percent of respondents responded “not applicable.”)
  • Since the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in mid-March, 19.87 percent of businesses say layoffs have occurred, 22.52 percent say layoffs are being considered, 2.65 percent say they are adding staff, and 54.97 percent say no change in personnel levels is anticipated.
  • Since the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in mid-March, 54.97 percent of businesses say they have put one or more purchases on hold, 44.37 percent say there has been no change in investments, and 0.66 percent report intending to increase investments because decreased work loads will entail fewer operational disruptions.
  • To communicate operational changes and updates, 85.43 percent of businesses say they are relying on email, 60.26 percent are using telephone communication, 57.62 percent are communicating on their websites, 52.98 percent are using social media, and 28.48 percent are using printed flyers or memos.

As part of the survey, respondents were also asked for their anonymous thoughts on how COVID-19 was affecting their businesses. Here are some of their responses:

“This has forced us to reevaluate how we handle our materials and put more focus on safety and appropriate PPE.”

“As a hazardous waste transporter and compliance consulting firm that deals primarily with healthcare facilities, our business has seen an increase in work. We have seen increased revenue.”

“We have suspended all plant tours and site visits for new customer projects for the foreseeable future until such time as there is testing made available that is instant (5- to 15-minute results). This has affected our project development process.”

“Our commercial business has been drastically reduced. Our residential business has increased slightly.”

“The change in consumer spending has severely impacted our sales and critically diminished our cash inflow, which has already impacted our liquidity.”

“Social distancing has forced us to cut back on MRF activities.”

“The nature of our operations is such where we have only had to make some minor changes to operations to keep both our staff and residents safe. We’ve begun sanitizing our trucks and practicing social distancing where practical. Only our billing operations have been closed for in-person transactions; we are conducting as much of this type of operation as possible through electronic means or through postal mail.”

“I'm in charge of recycling and waste management on [a] campus, and since students are taking classes online and other stakeholders have [less of a] presence on campus, the traffic and waste generation has been significantly reduced.”

“Although we have seen some minor attendance issues, our team remains strong and dedicated. We have instituted all recommended actions by the CDC and continue to disinfect all work areas and buildings on a regular basis.”

“We are seeing about a 50 percent reduction on inbound waste.”

“Residents are having to stay home so they are spring cleaning. We are getting overrun with garbage [and bulk items].”

“There is going to be a new normal. We need to understand what that is going to look like.”

Check out the results from Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine's survey on how COVID-19 has impacted the C&D recycling industry.