To further prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in health and home care environments, personal protective equipment plays an important role. Although there are specific guidelines for the disposal of discarded PPE in healthcare environments, the inappropriate segregation and disposal of such protective gears in public places complicates the problem of COVID-19 waste.
When the coronavirus pandemic infected millions of people we’re finally at a stage where having personal protective equipment (PPE) as disposable masks and gloves in stock will give us peace of mind. But while it is no longer a big problem to purchase these products, have you ever wondered how you can dispose of them? Here’s what you need to remember to get rid of your PPE.
PPE Improper Segregation Effects
Throwing masks, gloves and other protective equipment inadvertently or not will lead to the worsening problems of COVID-19 waste. Since PPE is a disposable plastic product, such plastic waste would add up to the risks to marine life. A detrimental impact on the marine environment can be caused by excessive disposal of face masks and other PPE.
Long-term Effects to the Environment
With masks having a lifetime of 450 years and even longer for certain forms of PPE, the world would be disrupted by more heaps of plastic waste. Our discarded PPE would stay longer if the pandemic ends sooner or later, which will put a lot of stress in the coming years, polluting more ground, water and air.
Public Health Threat
We don’t know anything about the survival of the COVID-19 existing long hours in textile materials yet, but it is assumed that after 48 hours, the virus could still be found in textile materials. Although the world really needs more research on the matter, the possibility for cross-contamination from disposing of masks or PPE exists.
In addition, if the discarded mask carries infectious particles, they may be able to cross-contaminate the surfaces they come into contact with, and we know that the virus lives on hard surfaces more readily than on porous surfaces, so being able not to dump PPE on the proper bin will be a problem.
How to Properly Segregate Used PPE?
Waste segregation is included in the legislation because recycling is much simpler. Efficient waste segregation means less waste goes to the landfill, making it easier and safer for individuals and the community. For public health, it is also essential to segregate especially in these times where the pandemic is affecting millions of people.
Removal of PPE
Carefully remove the PPE and try not to touch the inside of your face. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser after you remove your PPE or face covering.
Classify Which Bin PPE Belongs
If not infected, disposable personal protective equipment must be thrown in a closed bin with fitted lids. But which closed bin should it be dumped? It’s believed that PPE belongs to be segregated in the general waste.
To avoid and eliminate waste, you should wash and reuse cloth face coverings. If the PPE you are using is made of cloth and you are not contaminated, you can solely hand-wash your PPE to avoid adding up to the increasing waste statistics since throwing is another waste. If you want to use it instead of a disposable face cover, you can read some detail about reusable cloth face-coverings here.
Throwing One-Use PPE
If you’re at home or work, you have to dispose of your discarded face coverings or PPE, such as gloves in a ‘black bag’ waste bin or directly to the general waste. Do not place them in a recycling bin, because traditional recycling facilities do not recycle them. If there is no litter bin, you should carry them home with you – do not drop them as litter as it will have long-term effects for the environment.
Proper Disposal of PPE
Disposing of contaminated PPE in a closed bin is the proper way for disposal. The bin is preferably one with a foot pedal or another hands-free device to open the lid. To ensure the waste is double bagged, the bin for polluted PPE should contain two bin liners. Double bagging mitigates the person disposing of the waste from any exposure to the virus.
Where there is no closed bin, the infected PPE should be stored in a sealed bag before being disposed of in the bin. Double bagging is considered similar to a sealed bag and a single bin liner. After removing and disposing of your PPE, make sure to have good hand hygiene. Hands should be properly washed with water and soap (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or with a hand sanitiser.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) helps prevent germs in the hospital from spreading. This will protect the healthcare staff and other patients from getting viruses. Although PPE is very necessary and obligatory nowadays, we should not deny the fact that it is also contributing harm and waste to the environment, especially when people do not properly segregate and dispose of contaminated PPE.
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