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caption: A large pile of recyclables forms where arriving trucks dump the materials before they are sorted on Friday, October 26, 2018, at Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville.
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A large pile of recyclables forms where arriving trucks dump the materials before they are sorted on Friday, October 26, 2018, at Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Is the pandemic causing us to backslide on our recycling habits?

During lockdown, all the online shopping and restaurant takeout led to a lot more trash.

At the start of the stay home order, from April to June, the Seattle area was throwing out 2,000 tons more garbage.

“And what that looks like is about 86 full garbage collection trucks,” said Becca Fong, with the Seattle Public Utilities.

She adds, we produced just as much in recycling.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re consuming more stuff. Before, we simply disposed our garbage at work, at school or in the community. Now that we’re spending more time at home, Fong says our habits have shifted to home delivery and online order.

“Maybe we are consuming less of other things. A lot of folks bought a lot of convenience foods when you were going to work or sending your kids to school, you were buying pre-packaged snacks.”

Fong says rather than feel guilty about it, think of it as a trade-off. As long as we’re still home, it’s an opportunity to pay attention to our choices.

“Do I need this thing? Do I have to have it now? nd is there a way for me to acquire this in a way that doesn’t generate so much waste?”

As for takeout food, Seattle restaurants are required to use containers that are either recyclable or compostable.