As the April issue of Recycling Today goes to press, the United States has entered a new phase in health care resource allocation, social behavior, business planning and supply chain management. Everywhere it has been detected, the COVID-19 coronavirus has brought with it profound changes.

Business owners and managers in the recycling sector have not only their own personal and family considerations to manage but also those of the people for whom they bear a great deal of responsibility during their workdays (and, often, via their health insurance plans).

Even the most prepared organizations with epidemic plans stored on a server have little in the way of a known path forward at this time. The federal government and state governments will make sudden decisions, and CEOs must respond accordingly.

As someone who is a full-time resident of Hong Kong—and who was visiting family in the People’s Republic of China in late January as the first lockdown was introduced about 700 miles away in Wuhan—being in the U.S. in March presents a clear feeling of déjà vu.

Wherever COVID-19 has emerged, varying doses of panic have emerged with it. Fortunately, what largely has been shown thus far is that the global manufacturing and agricultural sectors are resilient and functional.

Tissue mills (and considering the critical link of home delivery, containerboard and paperboard mills as well) will continue to operate 24/7, and the raw materials supply chains to feed them have kept moving.

That is not to say the continuity of these industrial processes can be taken for granted. Recyclers of paper and board (and of metals, plastics and other commodities) will face new layers of planning to keep employees and customers reassured and to keep materials moving.

“Even the most prepared organizations with epidemic plans stored on a server have little in the way of a known path forward at this time.”

Americans may have looked at lockdown measures started in China that spread to other parts of Asia and then to Europe and thought, “Well, that won’t happen here.”

However, the mild panic and hoarding phase arrived on American shores, and by mid-March it was clear that copious amounts of planning and patience will be required in the spring of 2020.

The U.S. way of life and economy are in for a curious (at best) couple of months.

Recycling Today has taken measures to keep information flowing. We know recyclers are making more challenging adjustments. We intend to tell those stories and, more importantly, to provide information and connect people when it is helpful.