Two-thirds of households are throwing tissues, gloves,
facemasks and other items that are potentially contaminated in
their general waste bins (Photo: Getty)
Survey finds people are not taking the necessary precautions to seal waste that could be contaminated with Covid-19
Two-thirds of households are throwing tissues, gloves, face masks and other items that are potentially contaminated in their general waste bins without taking the necessary safety precautions, a study finds.
PPE and other potentially hazardous materials must be sealed in two smaller plastic bags – one inside the other – and stored for 72 hours before they are put in the general waste bin.
But while four in five household bins in the UK contained such items, only 18 per cent of them had been correctly ‘quarantined’ for three days in smaller bags.
Meanwhile virtually no households had disposed of them in a specialist hazardous waste bin.
Majority of households not taking proper precautions
As a result, two in three general household bins contain material that is potentially contaminated.
The discarded protective gear and tissues pose a particular threat to refuse workers but also to other people that might come into contact with the bins or its contents.
“People are wearing gloves and masks as they venture outside or to their local shops, which is a great way to reduce the risk of contamination – but the knock-on effect is that if more PPE is being used, then there is more that needs to be disposed of safely,” says Mark Hall, of the clinical waste collection company BusinessWaste.co.uk.
“Putting potentially contaminated PPE in the bin could expose waste collectors to the virus, so if you’re using PPE you need to make sure it is thrown away correctly as it is contaminated waste,” Mr Hall said.
Putting key workers at risk
The company phoned more than 1,500 businesses and households and found that four out of five of them have been throwing used protective gear into their general waste.
“Unfortunately, the Government has not been strict enough with dealing with waste PPE when it should be classed as hazardous waste – why are we putting the key working bin men at risk?” said Mr Hall.
Hazardous waste is defined as waste that poses risk to human health or the environment, and used PPE which could be contaminated with Covid-19 can fall into this classification.
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