Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Fall 10-28-2022


Kluthe, A.M. 2022. The Effects of COVID-19 on Residential Municipal Waste Streams. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Anne Kluthe 2022.


Through interviews, this exploratory analytive study researched how COVID-19, and especially the first lockdown of 2020, changed residential municipal waste streams, specifically in terms of items, tonnage, and workplace practices. The most common items were an influx in PPE, specifically face masks, and an increase in cardboard. There was also some evidence of paper from “deep cleaning” projects and construction debris from backyard pool installation and bathroom renovation. The total change in waste varied from area to area. Norfolk and the surrounding area had a stagnant amount of waste during the pandemic, Omaha and the rest of Douglas County saw stagnant waste but an increase in recycling, possibly due not to COVID-19 but their newly-implemented recycling program, and private businesses in Lincoln saw an increase in some waste diversion sectors but a decrease in others. Workplace practices implemented safety measures such as sending office workers home to work, having employees work in non-overlapping shifts, social distancing as much as possible and cleaning down the area after each use. No source reported layoffs or even hiring freezes, and there was a shift in technology use, some of which became a permanent change.