The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come—on the economy, on people and on our way of life. Remaining resilient—both in business and in life—will require every industry and individual to adapt at a pace we might never have thought possible. In response to COVID-19, USGBC and GBCI have outlined a series of actions and priorities that will support a global recovery effort and leverage the power of our community to shape a healthier future for all.
How TRUE can address COVID-19
We are committed to the safe and efficient operation of facilities, as we know that this protects people and the environment. The TRUE Rating System inherently provides avenues to address the COVID-19 crisis, while also addressing sustainability.
The greatest risk reduction and resiliency strategy TRUE provides is an overarching prevention of waste (and even recyclable) materials from being generated in the first place. Less materials to handle means less risk of injury or illness for janitorial staff and waste management workers. In addition, generating little to no excess materials means reduced dependency on haulers and other outside agencies, leading to a greater ability to weather changes in the marketplace. For what materials are left, many TRUE credits and minimum program requirements encourage proper collection and sorting of solid waste and recyclable materials at the source. This reduces the need for workers to come into direct contact with contaminated materials. The rating system also includes strategies that benefit occupants and the community in a time of need, such as food donation, using local businesses and growing food on-site.
How USGBC and GBCI are responding to the pandemic
During COVID19, many TRUE certified facilities have altered or halted their operations for the safety of their staff. Along with adapting principles and practices from the rating system, there are some other tips and up to date resources on ensuring a safe and effective re-occupancy that the TRUE team wants to provide. Most important, is the health and safety of employees.
USGBC recently released a number of resources to assist with managing and re-occupying buildings, including LEED Safety First Pilot Credits and the Arc Re-Entry tool. Whenever possible, please take your time transitioning occupants back to facilities and try to stagger the amount of people in a space at a given time as they come back. COVID-19 has had a big impact on the waste and recycling industry. Certain waste management infrastructures are temporarily unavailable, and additional waste streams have been created as safety protocols have increased globally. Your company may have altered your current waste contracts during this time. As your team transitions back, try and work with your hauler as appropriate to ramp back up to normal operations. Remember, they may be facing the same challenges as your team due to staffing.
With the emergence of COVID-19, GBCI has adapted our certification review process to provide project teams flexibility, help them update their certification work plans and extend timelines. Our goal is to steady the ship for our customers and focus on the health and safety of all people involved in certification and verification activities. GBCI’s experts are also uniquely positioned to provide all projects with information and resources on top issued related to COVID-19, and will continue to proactively share evolving best practices, assemble COVID-19-related certification feedback and guide users to carefully curated and trusted resources. We are committed to helping project teams adapt to the new reality we are facing and to promoting the health and safety of waste management workers, and will continue to take the following actions to support you:
- Adapted certification process: GBCI immediately amended the TRUE certification processes to ensure the health and safety of project teams, GBCI staff and reviewers. This includes postponing or suspending the on-site assessment phase for TRUE certification and implementing remote audit and assessment procedures where needed. Established processes are intended to minimize the impact on projects as much as possible, while also taking all necessary precautions against the spread of COVID-19. GBCI will evaluate options for a permanent transition to remote review and assessment model.
- New TRUE Safety First Pilot Credits: Next week, GBCI will release TRUE pilot credits to promote best practice requirements to support the health and safety of custodial and waste management workers. These pilot credits will be featured in our upcoming TRUE Town Hall on Wednesday, June 24. Register to attend.
- Flexibility for affected projects: With some facilities either being shut down or operating with reduced staff, we understand there may be an impact on performance data. GBCI is encouraging project teams to reach out to discuss options for affected facilities. Our goal is to ensure projects can feel confident in safely making changes to operations during this time without concern for how it might impact certification status.
- Virtual Events: All in-person events for TRUE, including workshops and trainings, have been transitioned to virtual events for the remainder of 2020. Please visit the TRUE events page to learn more about upcoming offerings.
- Guidance Resources: GBCI will compile and share resources offering specific guidance on best practices to make health and safety an even stronger priority as we pursue a smart, equitable and sustainable recovery, including:
- Safe waste reduction and reuse tactics during Covid-19
- Tips to work from home successfully
- Promotion of health and safety for janitorial workers
- Recycling and composting during Covid-19
- FAQs: GBCI will continue to rapidly develop and publish common FAQ sand solutions to certification & credentialing impacts from COVID-19 for GBCI programs including TRUE. You can access these here.
In addition, there are other measures outside of the TRUE Rating System that facilities can take at this time to safeguard occupants and the community. Janitorial staff and waste management workers have been some of the unsung heroes of this pandemic and have been working throughout this time. In addition to celebrating the essential workers in our communities, we also need to find ways to support them so their jobs do not pose unnecessary risk to their health and that of their families. Some great tips can be found here. Protecting those with the most vulnerable and dangerous jobs is paramount.
Experts across the world have also been developing resources to support businesses, facilities and recycling and composting industry professionals in managing resources safely and effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some resources we think may be helpful to the TRUE community:
Zero Waste Community Resources
- OSHA Covid-19 Control and Prevention
- SWANA Guidance on Coronavirus
- ISRI Guidance to Help Recyclers Operate Safely and PDF version
- ISRI Member Alert: Resources for Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus
- ISWA Waste Management During the Covid-19 Pandemic
- CDC What Waste Collectors and Recyclers Need to Know about COVID-19
- CDC Guidance for Manufacturing Workers and Employers
- CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting your Facility
- ISLR Covid-19 Resources for Composters & Food Scrap Collectors
- USCC Covid-19 Documents/Policies/Information
- Department of Health Services – Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce (Public Works Section)
- National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) Healthcare Waste Institute – FAQs 21019 Novel Coronavirus
- AIA Re-ccoupancy Assessment Tool
- Stericycle - Regulated Medical Waste and Sharps Packaging Guidance
Industry News & Thought Leadership
- Waste Dive TRACKER– How coronavirus is disrupting US waste and recycling (updated daily)
- Treehugger article on single use plastics: https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/dont-let-coronavirus-ruin-fight-against-single-use-plastics.html
- Recycling markets during COVID19: https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2020/03/17/coronavirus-pandemic-disrupts-recycling-sector/
- Safety of reusables: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/pandemic-changing-dialogue-about-reusable-packaging
Business Assistance and Other Resources
- U.S. Small Business Administration Resource Guide
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (Economic injury loans)
- Paycheck Protection Program (Loan designed to provide direct incentive to for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.)
- Express Bridge Loans (Enables small businesses who currently have a business relationship with SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.)
- Small Business Debt Relief (Small Business Administration will pay principal, interest, and fees on certain current loans.)
As more information is available, we expect to expand and refine the resources on this page with the best recommendations for precautionary measures in managing zero waste effortsduring the COVID-19 pandemic.
Have ideas and insights? We would love to hear from you. Let us know what is important in your community during this time by emailing us at [email protected].