If good news during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic seems scarce, consider this: Recycling is up in Columbus over the same two-month period last year and air quality has improved by double digits in central Ohio.
According to the Columbus Department of Public Service, the city's residential curbside recycling-collection program was up from 2,377 tons in March 2019 to 2,847 tons in March 2020 -- an increase of nearly 20%.
In April, 2,984 tons were collected, which is about 7% more than the 2,761 tons collected in April 2019.
Meanwhile, ozone air pollution was 14% lower from March to mid-April this year compared to average pollution levels from 2015-19. The decrease is attributed to the combined effect of less traffic on the roads and an especially rainy spring, said Bevan Schneck, spokesman for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
"When it rains and there are strong winds, that reduces the ozone," which improves air quality, Schneck said.
Deborah Briner, public-services spokeswoman for Columbus, said the upswing in air quality and the drop in recycling can be attributed to Gov. Mike DeWine's order to close all bars and restaurants, with the exception of carryout and delivery services, on March 15, and the earlier order to shut down schools.
DeWine then issued a stay-at-home order for residents that was extended through May 1, and he also closed school buildings for the remainder of current year.
"Residents are at home all day," Briner said. "Many are working from home, and families have their children at home all day now, too.
"It's likely they're having more meals at home versus eating a meal or two at work or school," she said. "That generates more trash and more recycling. It's also spring-cleaning season and, especially with people spending more time at home, they may be decluttering and discarding items."
Residents should practice filling their large blue recycling carts more efficiently for better results, Briner said.
"We encourage them to maximize use with steps like flattening cardboard before placing it in their container," she said.
Residents who find themselves in need of a second container may order another cart, even if it's temporary, for $48.38 at columbus.gov/publicservice/recycolumbus.
In addition, a list of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio's recycling drop-off locations may be accessed at tinyurl.com/swacodropoff.
MORPC contracts with the meteorology firm Sonoma Technology, which presents five-day forecasts for the commission and will continue to issue air-quality alerts, Schneck said.
When the weather warms up and more cars are on the road, the air quality likely will drop back to previously normal ranges, he said.
"That's why we're big on alternate transportation -- carpool and get on bikes to go places, things like people trying out the (bike) trails and things like that," Schneck said.