In light of the global coronavirus outbreak, Public Health England has issued advice to the public on how to deal with potentially infectious waste.
Public Health England recommends all waste that has been in contact with any self-isolated individual should be double-bagged and tied to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The waste should not be disposed of or put out for collection until it is known the potential patient does not have Covid-19.
The Public Health England advice reads: “Waste from possible cases and cleaning of areas where possible cases have been (including disposable cloths, tissues, and masks if worn) should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full.
“The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied.”
Further advice has been issued for the public and for hospitals on what to do with the bags once full.
It says: “It should be put in a suitable and secure place and marked for storage until the individual’s test results are known.
“Children, pets and pests should not be able to access this place. Waste should not be left unsupervised on the pavement awaiting collection.
“If the individual test is negative, this can be put in with the normal waste.
“If the individual tests positive, then place bags in orange or yellow containers or bags and arrange disposal as category B waste.”
Samples of materials such as blood, tissue, excreta and secreta collected from humans or animals are classified as category B infectious waste.
The government health agency also warned that waste should only be collected by those authorised to do so.
It said: “Arrangements need to be made for collection by an appropriate organisation (for example a licensed waste contractor acting on behalf of the local authority).”
However, with all crews expected to wear gloves and follow good hygiene practices, the risk of infection for anyone collecting double-bagged refuse is thought to be small, a waste sector expert told letsrecycle.com.
Some people – usually the elderly or less able – receive assisted collections where operators go further into properties to remove bins rather than collecting them on the kerbside.
This might elicit more interaction but is only thought to be relevant to a small number of cases.
All good advice but unlikely to happen. Healthcare premises holding double-bagged wastes until proven negative for Covid-19 is unthinkable unless perhaps it is stored in the carpark and of course that simply defeats the purpose. Moreover, the idea of track and trace for containers of waste from successive patients tallied against their virus test results is good in theory but in practice is simply risible. It’s not going to happen without multiple errors, or simply will not happen at all.
Lastly, the impact on the disposal operators is worrying, though perhaps long overdue. For years, we have been highlighting the risks to employees from inappropriate contact with potentially hazardous wastes, inadequate or inappropriate PPE items and inadequate of non-existent hand hygiene facilities at base and worse, when out of the road.
It should change, in fact it should have changed years ago. However, and very regrettably, this is not going to make a jot of difference.