Coronavirus Information and Resources

March 26, 2020

SWANA is continuing to provide useful and timely information and resources to support members and the solid waste industry as a whole in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A dedicated webpage has been developed that is regularly updated with new materials as appropriate. Also, on April 2 SWANA has invited Dr. Ben Hoffman, Chief Medical Officer at WorkSTEPS, to provide a webinar, Update on the Coronavirus & Solid Waste Industry. Dr. Hoffman will do a brief presentation followed by a long Q+A to ensure people are able to discuss pressing issues and ask questions. This webinar is free for all SWANA members.

Earlier this month, SWANA issued Guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) aimed at workers in the solid waste industry, based upon recommendations from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Since then, OSHA has further clarified its recommendations for the solid waste industry. Workers and employers should manage municipal (e.g., household, business) solid waste and recycling with potential or known COVID-19 contamination like any other non-contaminated municipal waste. This includes the continued use of typical engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE.

SWANA has also urged governors, mayors and other elected officials and leaders that solid waste collection, processing, and disposal is an essential public service and should be exempted from local or state-wide quarantines in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This is supported by a memo issued on March 19, 2020 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that includes solid waste management as a recommended essential critical infrastructure workforce.

In order to ease travel for workers as emergency orders are increasingly imposed limiting travel, SWANA has issued several important documents for members to use to identify themselves as “essential critical infrastructure” workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These documents will allow solid waste and recycling workers and others to provide documentation demonstrating their exemption to law enforcement personnel and others as necessary. The materials include a letter for workers to show if stopped, a placard to be placed in their vehicle while travelling for work, and a guidance memo to employers.

As more is learned about COVID-19 and solid waste professionals adapt to changes in operations, SWANA will continue to share information and encourage members to do the same. For example, a number of local agencies are urging their residential customers not to engage in the usual “Spring cleaning” of their homes, which generates a substantial amount of waste at a time when waste volume is increasing due to people working from home or being ordered to stay home. Ongoing conversations are occurring on the Open Forum on that is available to all members to participate in. Some practices are shared below as well.


Interaction with the public can be eliminated or minimized by closing offices to walk-ins and requiring all communications via phone or email. Drop off locations for recycling and household hazardous waste (HHW) that are staffed can be temporarily closed.

Workers should be strongly urged to minimize contact with each other. Tailgate talks and other meetings can be held in smaller groups, outdoors when permitting, or over a radio or other communication device. The CDC recommends a minimum 6-foot distance between persons. Workers that have contact with numerous individuals throughout the day, including scale house workers, should consider ways to minimize risk. Use of gloves, changing paperwork and payment procedures, and finding other ways to reduce contact are recommended.

Some facilities have reduced hours in order to both decrease the number of workers required and also to keep shifts separated. Workers should be discouraged from interacting with each other before and after shifts as well. Further, they should be encouraged to arrive and leave promptly.


Regular and thorough cleaning of all common areas is recommended. Sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces such as steering wheels, door handles, fixtures, and handrails that are touched often is required. Other workplace features – such as time clocks and locker faces – should also be included. 

For the waste industry in particular, equipment control panels and the cabs of trucks and disposal equipment, including all handles, wheels, buttons, knobs, arm rests, etc., should be sanitized before and after use. If possible, tablets, PPE and other handheld data equipment should not be shared among workers.


Most importantly, if a worker becomes ill or is exposed to someone who is ill, they should not come to work. Please talk with employees about leave policies and encourage their use as appropriate. A sick employee coming to work puts everyone at risk.

We encourage you to provide your best practices with us so that we can share them with the industry and help everyone keep safe and healthy. Please feel free to contact SWANA’s Advocacy & Safety Senior Manager Jesse Maxwell at (240) 494-2237 or with any questions or suggestions you might have.