Plastic, glass, paper and food waste are just a few examples of what you would normally expect to find in your commercial waste and recycling. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced a new, more commonly present item, PPE (personal protective equipment that can include gloves, masks, aprons, wipes and cleaning cloths).
If your team has been working in your business premises and/or dealing with customers and clients during the pandemic, they have most likely been using PPE. How should you dispose of it safely and what guidance should you follow? Read on to find out what you need to know.
The advice below is for non-clinical waste. You can find information on clinical waste disposal (from medical facilities, tattoo parlours, beauticians and cosmetic surgeries) here.
What not to do with your PPE waste
Firstly, you do not need to arrange an expensive specialist collection for PPE. Some private waste collection providers may try to encourage you to pay for this, but it is generally not necessary. Disposing of this type of waste is usually straightforward, and it can be handled as part of your regular council waste collection. (Using a private collector, meanwhile, can increase the pressure on the environment, duplicating waste collection journeys already carried out by the council using its electric refuse collection fleet.)
However, PPE is not suitable for recycling, so it must never be put into your recycling bin or bag.
It is always important to remember that putting non-recyclables in with recyclable waste contaminates whole loads that could otherwise be recovered. This sometimes happens due to wishful recycling or ‘wishcycling‘ – when individuals put the wrong materials in recycling bins in the hope that they are suitable.
To prevent wishcycling, it is a good idea to display posters or other messaging about what can be disposed of near waste and recycling bins. Employees can then check if they are in doubt. (Our team can offer help with training, posters and signage, as well as services like waste audits, improvement plans and progress reports for your waste management goals.)
There are many concerns about the amount of single-use plastic being wasted in the form of PPE during the pandemic. One way to reduce this is to wear reusable cloth face coverings that can be washed, rather than being disposable. Helping to reduce waste also helps your waste collection team keep services running efficiently, as well as reducing environmental impact.
It should go without saying that it is important to ensure that PPE is properly disposed of, rather than being lost or dropped in the street where it could present a health hazard.
How to dispose of PPE correctly
If your PPE has not been in contact with a possible source of Covid-19 infection, it can be disposed of along with your general waste. In the case of possible exposure, you will need to quarantine the material. This is to help protect both the general public and the health of waste and recycling operatives. Here are some steps to follow:
- Place the PPE in a plastic waste bag and tie the opening.
- Double-bag the waste, placing the first bag into a second bag. Again, tie the opening to secure it.
- Keep the bag in a safe, secure place. It should be kept there for 72 hours before disposal until the individual who requires a Covid-19 test has received their test results.
Double-bagging is not necessary if the individual tests negative. If they test positive, the advice is to store the waste for 72 hours. It can then be put with general waste.
We can assist with the collection of clinical waste from testing and vaccination at temporary sites, clinics and health care premises. We offer a bespoke service for this via Veolia. Please visit this page here for further information.
Next steps and other ways to protect your workplace
All of the general waste collected by Westminster City Council is sent to SELCHP energy facility for safe destruction. Here, general waste from Westminster households and businesses is used as fuel to generate renewable energy for electricity and heating.
Disposing of PPE correctly is just one of the ways your business can contribute to fighting the pandemic. If you will soon be preparing to go back to your premises after lockdown or home working, visit this page for advice on what you need to do next to keep your workplace clean and safe. For example, we offer a disinfection service for business premises to help protect your workers and customers. You can also contact us for more information about how we can help.