All of us need to wear the proper equipment and follow protocols to stay safe during the pandemic.
If we do not correctly throw out plastic PPE, it can end up in the ocean. These lightweight materials can blow into waterways and harm marine and wildlife if they are littered or sitting in a landfill. Taking steps to discard waste adequately also protects our communities and waste workers from risks.
“Currently, millions of contaminated face masks, gloves and materials for diagnosing, detecting and treating SARS-CoV-2 and other human pathogens are undergoing the irreversible process of becoming infectious waste. This, in turn, will cause environmental and health problems if they are stored, transported and handled improperly,” states a recent case study from NCBI. “Moreover, due to the increased healthcare waste owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat that unsafe disposal of medical waste will spill over into environmental pollution is palpable and immediate.”
Here is how you can correctly dispose of face masks and sanitizers.
How To Dispose Of Face Masks
Single-use face masks are made with non-woven polypropylene, polycarbonate, polyester, or polyethylene material. They keep pathogens out, but the materials are plastic-based and will not biodegradable. They will take 100s of years to break down. Studies show that there are over 129 billion face masks thrown out monthly. When possible, replace single-use masks with reusable cloth masks when going out.
If you need to wear these masks for work or care for someone who is sick, be sure to dispose of them as safely as possible by placing them in a trash bag and tying it up. See if your employer will invest in a recycling safety equipment waste box program.
Correct Disposal Of Sanitizer
The majority of the liquid sanitizers and gels are 60% (or greater) ethyl alcohol concentrations. These fluids are considered flammable – this classifies them as hazardous waste. As a result, any unused portions of the containers and liquid must be appropriately disposed of.
Many municipalities accept drop-offs for sanitizers and cleaners. Before dropping off, it is recommended to:
- Ensure all materials are in their original container or that contents are marked on the container.
- Ensure all containers are capped securely.
By properly disposing of these products, you are protecting local water sources.
To keep others safe, here are some cleaning and disinfection reminders to prevent spreading infection.