Waste Management During COVID-19 Nov. 19, 2020

Waste Management During COVID 19

Samantha Haslop Waste 0 Comments

This year has brought with it many challenges. The arrival of the Coronavirus has sent the whole world into a frenzy, with everyone’s focus moving towards staying at home, staying safe and staying well. Businesses, of course, have had to shut and millions have had their livelihoods effected by the deadly virus. At the peak utilisation of the furlough scheme in May, a staggering 30% of the UK workforce was furloughed and June to August estimations showed that 1.52million people were unemployed.

Whilst business boomed for the the likes of supermarkets, online retailers and suppliers of other essential products, the catering, hospitality and entertainment industries took a bashing like nothing we’ve ever witnessed in our lifetimes. One week we’re all being encouraged to make use of Rishi’s “eat out to help out” scheme, the next we’re being told to grass up our neighbours for having a BBQ with more than 6 people.

The rules got confusing and it was really all we could do to remember what day it was, get through a working day without the kids running naked behind us during a Zoom meeting and complete a run whilst resisting the urge to post our fastest 5K time to social media. At least we all know how to bake the perfect banana bread now though, right?

And everyone’s minds have been very firmly fixed on hygiene. We’ve all mastered the art of washing our hands for 20 seconds, sanitizing immediately after and then – in true British fashion – commenting on the smell and consistency of said hand sanitizer.

There were even stories emerging earlier in the year of people sanitizing their food shopping when it arrived, by washing it down in the bath. Who are these people and where do they get their patience from?

Also floating around social media was a top tip from a refuse collector (or, as they’re more fondly known: bin men) about not bringing in your bins for a few days after they’ve been emptied, to allow enough time for any potential germs to die before placing your hands on them to wheel them back in.

And so we come to the topic of waste management during these surreal times.

The government website actually released guidance on managing your waste throughout the course of the Coronavirus crisis, which we’ve summarised for you below. Note: the following guidance doesn’t apply to any kind of healthcare or medical setting.

Waste Management During COVID-19
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1. Facemasks (PPE)

Can be disposed of in standard black bin bags at home or work, or in a public bin. Masks are not able to be recycled using traditional methods so shouldn’t be put in your recycling bin, but you don’t need to double bag them or store them for any kind of additional period before throwing them away. The government have kindly highlighted that you shouldn’t throw your masks on the floor but we’re of the impression that those of you taking the time to read articles on our site probably aren’t the type of people selfish (or stupid) enough to do this, anyway.

2. Self-Isolation Exceptions

In true Boris style, this guidance wouldn’t be complete without at least a little bit of confusion and lack of clarity. So, in short, your PPE doesn’t need storing unless you’ve been using it during a period of self-isolation as a result of displaying symptoms, coming into contact with someone who has tested positive, or testing positive yourself. With PPE/facemasks in this instance, the stuff needs double bagging and storing for 72 hours before being thrown out in your black bin bags. Got it? Good, keep up!

3. For Businesses

You should be providing staff with PPE where possible and – as you’ve probably gathered from above – this should then be thrown away in black bin bags along with other waste. Again, we repeat: MASKS ARE NOT RECYCLABLE. If you’re a company that has hazardous waste bags (yellow bags, black stripe), then you can put your PPE/masks in here. Otherwise, standard black bags is absolutely fine and you don’t need to have a separate collection for your PPE. If you do, though, make sure it’s coded properly.

4. Cleaning Waste.

Unless you have an outbreak or suspected outbreak in your business, then you can continue to dispose of your cleaning waste as usual – even if you’re using more cleaning products than you normally would. No double bagging or extra storage time needed, but it’s important to check out further guidance when dealing with outbreaks – confirmed or otherwise – in a public or work setting.

COVID-19 guidance wouldn’t be complete without at least a little bit of confusion and lack of clarity!

There is plenty more information to be found on government sites on prioritising waste collection services right now, including allocating additional staff to the departments responsible for collecting waste and a risk-based priority system which sees different aspects coded as high, medium or low.

Additionally, the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies have also released a new publication - Waste Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic: from response to recovery – which reviews current ways that we manage our waste and outlines new approaches, practices and technologies for improvement moving forward.

We’re not COVID experts so we can’t offer all the practical help (or emotional support, for that matter), that you may need to get you through the coming weeks and months, as we adjust to a new way of living.

But we are experts in waste management – so let us help with that bit. For more information on how we can help your business make the right waste decisions, visit Mercorr.

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