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PPE Disposal in a COVID World

As we enter our seventh month of Coivd-19 PPE use, the question of how to dispose of it correctly comes up quite often.  As the Covid-19 pandemic rolls on, one of the biggest issues that has arisen is what to do with all the PPE waste that is being generated.  The University College London estimates that if “every person used a single use face mask, every day for a year, it would create an additional 66,000 tons of contaminated waste and an additional 57,000 tons of non-recyclable plastic waste from packaging.”  These staggering numbers have many WTS customers asking how to properly dispose of all the additional waste.

The disposal question most often asked is, “Do we have to manage as Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)?”  The answer, like that to most every waste question, is not a simple yes or no.  There are Federal and State regulations that will apply to this answer.  While the Federal regulation is the same across the board, the State regulations will vary depending on where your business is located.  As with all RMW regulations, make sure you know your state’s requirements.

For Covid 19 PPE disposal we will focus on non-medical facility-based businesses.  This will include, but not be limited to, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, and office-based facilities.  Per guidance from the CDC the following is recommended for the disposal of PPE: 

  • PPE should be removed in such a manor to limit cross contamination.
  • Used PPE should be placed into a bag and the bag should be tied tightly.
  • For extra protection, this bag should be placed into an additional bag, and tied tightly once again.
  • This double bagged waste can then be put in with your common solid waste for disposal.

To further help contain the spread of Covid-19 after removing your PPE you should wash your hands with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.  Additionally, spraying the trash cans, especially the handles with a CDC recommended disinfectant spray will help keep workers protected.

OSHA guidelines suggest that waste disposal workers handle office and home solid waste “with potential or known COVID-19 contamination like any other non-contaminated municipal waste.” Generally, management of such waste “does not require special precautions beyond those already used to protect workers from the hazards they encounter during their routine job tasks in solid waste and wastewater management.”

While it varies state to state, the general disposal of Covid-19 related PPE is the same as your general Solid Waste.  For protection of workers it is recommended that confirmed Covid-19 infected workers’ PPE be disposed of as RMW.  While not required, disposal in this manner will prevent other employees from accidently coming into contact with contaminated PPE that could be located in the “general trash.”

What if I don’t have RMW on-site already? Through our vast network  of suppliers  WTS can provide various solutions from on-site pick up to mail in options to certified RMW disposal facilities.

What do I do with waste while I wait for the RMW option?  Have the employee double-bag the Covid-19 contaminated waste. If available, place into a sturdy container such as a small box or bucket that can be sealed and labeled.  Label the box Covid-19 Contaminated-Do Not Open.  When the RMW option arrives, whether mail-in or on-site in-person disposal, follow the instructions provided.

Increased PPE use among all industries has certainly created a lot of confusion and questions, but with guidance from the CDC and OSHA your disposal of PPE can be both safe and legal following simple concepts of isolating contaminated PPE and disposing of it with your standard Solid Waste.  WTS, Inc. is always available to answer questions and provide solutions to all your Solid Waste needs, including your Covid-19 PPE.

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