Zero Waste Business in a Post-Pandemic World

The masks (for the vaccinated)(most of the time) are off.  Re-discovering the thrill of being with friends—face-to-face, after months of separation—is on.   Some say the pandemic is over, and we are getting back to normal.  Others say we must always now be on guard.  Things are forever changed.  Don’t throw your masks away.

Our stores and restaurants are open, but they have taken a big hit.  Some are gone, and we miss them.  The ones that managed to survive undertook efforts little short of heroic to stay afloat and dug deep into the creativity and endurance of employees.  

The pandemic has been a strange and quiet disaster.  Has it also clobbered Media’s Zero Waste efforts?

In our favor, Media has a strong reputation as an environmental town.  We have an amazing residential recycling rate.  We are good yard waste composters.  And now we are embracing food waste composting.  

Having just crunched the numbers, we found that in 2020, residential recycling in Media went up 9%.  We kind of expected this.  People were staying at and working from home, some with lots of time on their hands (reading up on Zero Waste on the internet, no doubt).  Office waste was being produced at home, and we had plenty of time to think about proper disposal.  It was one small purposeful thing we could each do at home in a time of loss and anxiety.

Under such duress, one would expect Media businesses to hunker down and focus on the bottom line, abandoning Zero Waste initiatives as an extravagance.  For sure, 2020 commercial recycling rates should be at an all-time low.  This was not the case!  Instead, we found that commercial recycling was at a multi-year high and a whopping 33% increase from 2019.

How is this even possible?  Stores and restaurants were closed or had limited service so much of the year.  Those that were open had so much on their plates.  The borough has struggled for years with commercial compliance since recycling was mandated in 1988.  To see this percentage increase at such a time is astonishing.  Does it mean that Media businesses, like residents, were committed, in the face of fear and uncertainty, to just leaning in to the greater good?

Added to the great recycling rates are anecdotal reports of impressive and exciting Zero Waste business practices in Media:  stores switching from plastic to paper bags, breweries investing re-usable 6-pack beer can carriers (made from recycled plastic!), restaurants investing compostable takeout containers and even an eatery that launched re-usable takeout containers!  

Media Zero Waste applauds our businesses for pioneering these Zero Waste measures at their most precarious moment.  Media residents are rooting for our businesses, and we can be so proud of all they’ve accomplished.  With this kind of grit and spirit, there is no doubt that we will see Media thrive again.