How do you safely dispose of healthcare PPE?
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of personal protective equipment has risen dramatically. Although face masks are no longer mandatory in public spaces in the UK, many service providers still choose to wear them.
In establishments such as restaurants, schools, and doctor’s surgeries, wearing masks and sometimes gloves is still relatively commonplace. However, many are still unsure of how to appropriately dispose of PPE. Failing to dispose of PPE in the correct manner is a public health risk, as it encourages the spread of infectious bacteria and viruses. For the safety of the general public, it's important to get rid of used masks and gloves in the correct manner.
How should PPE be disposed of?
Used PPE should never be placed in recycling bags, as they're not suitable for recycling.
In the case where a mask and other items of PPE have been in contact with an infectious person, or someone with a potentially infectious disease, it must be treated in the following way:
- Remove the face covering, being careful not to touch the inside of the mask, before removing other items of PPE.
- Once you've removed the mask, thoroughly wash your hands or use sanitiser.
- The item must then be put inside a plastic waste bag and tied before being placed into a second bin bag and tied.
- The bag then needs to be stored in a safe place for 72 hours or until the individual's negative result is known. Do not put it out for collection or in a public bin until it is known that it is not contaminated.
Once the waste is confirmed as uncontaminated, it can be put out for collection. If the individual's test result comes back positive, then it must be stored away from others for at least 72 hours before being put with the general waste.
Businesses should provide extra bins for their staff and customers to throw away their face coverings, and managers must remind staff to regularly change their PPE.
Although the severity of the pandemic has lessened, the proper disposal of PPE remains important to help protect those who are vulnerable. This is especially pertinent at this time of year when the arrival of the cold weather means people tend to be at higher risk of contracting illnesses.