Garbage collection workers in Mountain View, February 2009. (Photo by Demetri Mouratis/Flickr)

Trash, recycling and compost collection will continue normally in the Bay Area amid the dramatic response to the novel coronavirus, according to a handful of local service providers.

On Monday, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Marin counties and the city of Berkeley instituted shelter-in-place orders through at least April 7 in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Throughout the region, people are being told to stay home unless going to the grocery store or the doctor, for example, and many school districts had already announced widespread campus shutdowns.

This means that people will likely be doing more home cooking and engaging in hobbies or other home-bound activities that could result in the generation of larger volumes of household waste that needs to be hauled away.

Waste collection industry leaders, however, don’t expect significant disruptions to their services.

Ready to make adjustments

“We are currently operating the same routes and schedules, however, as the impact of the shelter in place becomes apparent, we will adjust those schedules to service the needs of our commercial and residential customers,” according to an email statement from Waste Management, which provides services to Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Hayward and parts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo.

“Garbage collection is an essential service and the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are not calling for any additional steps to handle (trash) or recycling,” according to the statement. “Waste handing is not a disease pathway and has not been identified as needing any special precaution by the WHO or CDC.”

Robert Reed, a spokesman for San Francisco’s Recology, said that while there might be more material collected from homes in the coming days and weeks, he doesn’t anticipate adding additional routes or drivers.

He also said the virus and the response to it aren’t disrupting normal service.

“The drivers and their supervisors are working and showing up in force,” Reed said.

Reed is encouraging people to break down all cardboard boxes and packaging and to crush their cans in order to ensure they have sufficient space in the bins.

“Every little bit helps,” Reed said. “So that would include flattening soda cans and everything you can tear up and crush.”

Curb appeal

Also, to help ensure bins aren’t missed on pick-up days, people should put them out on the curb the night before.

Greg Christie, general manager of Bay Cities Refuse, said he anticipates some increase in the volume of residential collections but thinks that will likely be offset by the diminishing volumes of commercial collections from restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, offices and other businesses.

“Commercial debris boxes from construction jobs or people working on houses and stuff, those have dropped off,” said Christie, whose company operates in Marin County and one area in Contra Costa County.

An emailed statement from Republic Services, which serves communities throughout the Bay Area, said, “While we are confident that we have the right business continuity plans in place to quickly respond to situations that may impact the communities we serve, we apologize for any temporary service delays that may occur.”

“We will continue to monitor developments to ensure we address escalated situations quickly, effectively and — most importantly — safely,” according to the statement.