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February 2021

Your guide to PPE disposal

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Hygiene and COVID-19

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.

Download Waste Disposal Posters

So how should COVID-19 PPE be disposed of? 

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: Safely Disposing of PPE Poster

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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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal from the experts in hygiene, Initial Hygiene South Africa

Download our Ultimate Guide to Safe Sanitary Waste Disposal

Ensure that your organisation meets the legal requirements for the disposal of sanitary waste by learning what constitutes sanitary waste and how you should dispose of it, in this comprehensive guide on the subject.
Download Guide

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