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How to correctly dispose of used PPE

How to correctly dispose of used PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is currently being used more than ever, both in the UK and across the globe, to help control the spread of coronavirus.

Those used to wearing PPE in the workplace – such as those in the healthcare, construction, food service, automotive, maritime and utilities industries – will have established guidelines and processes for the correct disposal of their workwear. However, those who previously wouldn’t routinely be required to use PPE but now find themselves using face masks, face visors, and gloves daily to control the outbreak of the pandemic, may well be unaware of correct disposal methods.

We’ve outlined how to correctly dispose of PPE so that it causes as little damage to the environment and other people as possible.

How to Dispose of Used But Not Infected PPE

If you are disposing of used PPE that has not knowingly come into contact with anyone infected with the coronavirus, disposal is straightforward. Simply put all used PPE into your general waste bin and ensure it is tied before putting it out for collection. Be sure that you do not put PPE into recycling bins or leave it unbagged, as this could be a danger to other people and the environment. For masks, be sure to cut the ear loops before throwing away. Masks with the straps attached can be a danger to wildlife who can swallow or get caught up in the elastic.

How to Dispose of Infected PPE

PPE that could be infected with COVID-19 is, unsurprisingly, subject to stricter disposal guidelines. This could apply to healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients for example, anyone who lives with someone that tested positive for coronavirus, or any workforce that has had reports of coronavirus infections within the place of work.

If you are disposing of potentially infected PPE, you must:

  • Bag it up: All used PPE that needs disposing of must be placed in a plastic waste bag and tied to reduce the risk of damage to other people and the environment. If you’re an employer, you can have a separate bin designated for used PPE only. Again, ensure that all strings and ear loops are cut before disposing of masks.


  • Double bag it: Once filled and tied, the bag containing used PPE should be placed inside a second bag and tied. This will reduce the risk of the bag splitting and releasing potentially contaminated PPE into the environment and serves as a second layer of protection.


  • Wait 72 hours: After double bagging the used PPE, you must set the waste aside for at least 72 hours. After this time has passed, you can then place the bag with your usual general waste ready for collection.


Where possible, you should use reusable PPE to limit the number of face masks, gloves, and other protective items from ending up in landfill sites and posing a risk of contamination.

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