The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global PPE disposal problem, and PPE has started to wash up on beaches all across the world. Here is your guide on how to correctly and safely dispose of used PPE.
In May last year I wrote an article on Covid-19 PPE and how to be hygienic and environmentally friendly, but the problem arising from used PPE not being disposed of correctly has sadly just worsened as the pandemic has dragged on, with masks and gloves washing up on beaches, river banks and being found in the ocean.
But let's take a step back, and look at COVID-19 PPE in light of other medical waste, and how it should be disposed of.
Towards the end of 2018 we did an Ask the Expert interview with Tobie Muller, our resident medical waste expert. In the interview, Tobie mentioned the different types of medical waste and how they are classified, as well as which of the different waste categories Initial services.
It's important to remember that PPE (personal protective equipment) used for COVID-19 prevention (primarily disposable gloves and masks, but also plastic aprons, face shields etc) is classified as infectious waste, and must be disposed of safely, and according to the government regulations for the disposal of COVID-19 waste.
The government regulations are slightly different for COVID-19 infectious waste than for other infectious waste. If you need a reminder of what exactly is classified as infectious waste, I recommend downloading our medical waste infographic bundle here.
According to the new governmental regulations, only 50 litre and 142 litre single-use cardboard box sets and liners may be used for the infectious waste emanating from COVID-19 positive patients, rather than our usual plastic medical waste containers.
They must be marked COVID-19, and before the container/s are collected they must be sealed securely with biohazard tape, then double-bagged using two 100micron red bags and cable tied to ensure that the container’s surface cannot contaminate any other area.
PPE and other infectious waste from someone that might have COVID-19 (in the absence of testing) must also be done as above. Because this PPE waste is possibly COVID-19 positive, it means that using the single-use box sets is the best way to protect both your employees and our staff who are handling the waste. Any company that has employees who are wearing masks and gloves in the workplace should provide single-use cardboard box sets into which their employees must dispose their used PPE.
We have created a simple poster to help you remember this:
By contacting a registered waste carrier such as Initial to assist you with your PPE waste disposal, you are not only preventing cross contamination, you are ensuring that this waste doesn't end up on beaches or in the sea.
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