What do you get when you close down a bottle depot during a worldwide pandemic?
If you’re BV Bottle Depot administrative assistant Judy Hofsink, hundreds and hundreds of messages from residents with one common concern: what am I going to do with all of these recyclables?
“All of those said ‘can you please call me back and let me know when you’re going to be open,’” she said, adding that when the facility did reopen the word of mouth spread as fast, if not faster, than she could have called everyone back.
When the facility did reopen on June 3 Hofsink characterized the flow of customers as non-stop.
“It really was,” she said. “I would say [total volume] is double normal right now.”
She said the decision to close was mostly due to staff members’ concerns about face-to-face interactions with customers in the early stages of the pandemic when relatively little was known about the virus.
On the flip side, however, she said that once they were able to work out a sanitary protocol which meshed with provincial standards that the facility was able to get back up and running shortly afterwards.
“They don’t sort the peoples bottles [here], a lot of other bottle depots sort for them and that’s different, right, because they have to touch every individual bottle.
“Here they’re wearing gloves and they just have to count and then put it on the rollers and chuck it in.”
That disconnect between employees stockpiling already-packaged recyclables versus having to sort each item is one element Hofsink said has made the reopening easier than it could have been.
However while the depot has not had the same problems others which do more sorting have had, she explained that this doesn’t mean reopening hasn’t come with its challenges.
In terms of volume, Hofsink explained the week they reopened was the most material she has ever seen through the depot. This includes a handful of individuals who had well over $500 of material and even one environmentally-minded Houstonite that brought not only a truck filled with bottles but an entire trailer filled with various recyclables.
In terms of enhanced sanitary measures, she said the facility has been limiting the number of customers inside the building to four at a time. Masks are available to customers and sanitizing with bleach (both used trays and floors) is being done throughout the day.
Hofsink said the comments from customers have been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve had a lot of people just saying, ‘Yeah, now I can park in my garage’ or ‘Now my shop is available for me to work in again.’”
As for her, she said they are just happy to be able to offer a service again so many are in desperate need of.
“We’re sorry we had to close but we couldn’t open any earlier because we had to have all our COVID-19 regulations in place.”
The bottle depot is open to the public from 10 a.m. to noon (while the building opens at nine, the first hour is used to prepare the facility for the day ahead) and then from 12:30 p.m. to 4 after a 30-minute break for lunch.
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