Coronavirus Update: What We're Doing to Protect Our Members and Staff
Service Status (Updated March 24th)
- Pickup services are continuing without interruption.
- Dropoff services are continuing, with possible logistical changes to be announced.
- Our full public statement is below.
Little Green Bucket and the "Stay at home" order
On March 23rd, Governor Lujan Grisham issued a stay at home order for the entire state, with exceptions for "essential businesses" including the following:
- "Infrastructure operations including . . . trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal."
- "Manufacturing operations involved in . . . fertilizer."
- "Services necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences or essential businesses including . . . custodial services."
- "Logistics and businesses that store, ship or deliver . . . goods or services directly to residences or retailers."
We believe the above items classify the entirety of our work as "essential", so we will continue operating unless circumstances or orders change.
Like so many in our community, we are gravely concerned about the public health threat of the coronavirus. In particular, since we currently provide composting services for nearly 400 local households each month, it's critical that we understand the transmission risks associated with our business processes and take steps to reduce those risks. This weekend, under the guidance of a local physician, we've conducted a risk assessment of all of our business processes and are adopting a series of protocols to mitigate the identified risks. The risk assessment and protocols are summarized below, and our staff are being provided with more detailed protocols and checklists to follow during their daily work.
We're taking it a day at a time but, for now, we have no plans to suspend our composting services unless a staff member or close associate tests positive for COVID-19 or local conditions change.
Risk Assessment (Summary)
- Direct Transmission: The vast majority of coronavirus cases are believed to be caused by direct transmission, whether from physical contact or fluid exchange via coughing or sneezing. Face-to-face interaction between our drivers and pickup customers is uncommon, and usually outside, so risk is minimal. At our drop-off events, our staff interact face-to-face with up to 60 people per event, so the risk is somewhat greater, although those events are also entirely outdoors.
- Surface Transmission: The risk of transmission via surfaces is lower than direct contact, but experiments have shown that the virus can remain viable on plastic and metal surfaces for up to 3 days (though the median survival rate is less than 1 day), so our buckets are a potential vector for transmission. This risk is partially mitigated by the fact that the majority of our buckets are washed and stored for 5 days or more between uses.
- Food(waste) Transmission: While there's no evidence that coronavirus is food-borne (i.e. you probably can't get it by eating something), it's less clear what the risks are while handling someone else's food waste. In other words, it is unclear whether coronavirus could be contracted from liquid droplets spraying out of someone else's compost bucket. [Update: this comprehensive guide to food safety and coronavirus has largely put our mind at easy about this risk, but we will continue taking the same precautions we've already initiated, with the exception of a relaxed standard for masks for our staff.]
What we're doing
- On the road: Our drivers are being dispatched with single-use gloves, hand sanitizer, and protocols for sanitizing high-touch surfaces in their trucks as well as for minimizing cross contamination between dirty buckets and clean ones.
- At drop-off events: Our staff will be equipped with the same supplies and protocols as our drivers, plus additional protocols for face-to-face customer interactions. While supplies last, hand sanitizer will be offered to customers on site following drop-off. Little Green Buckets dropped off by members will not be opened on site. Non-members bringing their own containers will be guided through safety measures for properly dumping their compostables.
- At headquarters: Food waste containers will only be opened and transferred between containers by staff equipped with goggles and N-95 masks. Buckets will likewise be washed by staff wearing goggles and N-95 masks, and will be sanitized through submersion in a bleach solution. Bleach will be added to our laundering of rags and reusable gloves. Doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces will be sanitized before and after each shift. Staff will be encouraged to change clothes and shower immediately after work.
How you can help
- If you or someone you've been in close contact with contracts coronavirus or is otherwise advised to self-quarantine, please let us know so we can take additional precautions regarding your compost service.
- When putting your Little Green Bucket out for pickup, or bringing it to a dropoff event, please take extra care to ensure that the compostable plastic liner is tucked inside the bucket and the lid is snapped securely. If your bucket isn't too full, please also twist the bag top around a few times, or even tie it, to help it remain closed.
- If you have disinfectant wipes or other sanitizing supplies, please clean your bucket's handle and the perimeter of its lid after placing it outside for pickup. Also wipe off any food debris on the outside of your bucket.
If you have any questions or recommendations in relation to these protocols, please contact me directly. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented challenge -- we're all in it together!
Founder, Little Green Bucket
Originally published March 14, 2020. Last edited March 24, 2020.
A note on environmental sustainability
We make every effort to run every aspect of our business as sustainably as possible. We use plant-based, low-impact cleansers whenever possible, and we strive to minimize single-use products, especially non-compostable ones. However, the unique demands of this public health crisis require compromise. For instance, we'll be using non-compostable single-use surgical gloves for a few days, while we await delivery of compostable single use food service gloves. And we'll be substituting non-compostable disinfecting wipes for our usual compostable ones, because the latter lack the disinfectant strength we need right now. We'll continue to evaluate our supply sourcing and make the best choices we can for the environment without compromising public health.