‘Wash face masks before dumping them’ 

Source: ‘Wash face masks before dumping them’ | The Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporter

Individuals disposing of either face masks or gloves used for Covid-19 prevention are now expected to wash and shred the materials before dumping them as non-recyclable litter, as they are now classified as “hazardous waste”.

Medical institutions will also dispose any waste generated during the screening, treatment or handling of Covid-19 cases on-site.

The new regulations are contained in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Covid-19 Infectious Waste Management Guide released last week.

The SOP was developed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in consultation with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

It focuses on the proper disposal of  personal protective equipment (PPE) used at household level, medical institutions, road checkpoints, toll plazas, ports of entry, shops, open vegetable markets, isolation and quarantine centres.

“At the household level, people are required to wash the used face masks and gloves with soap under running water for 20 seconds.

“Cut the washed or sanitised face masks and gloves into pieces using scissors to avoid unscrupulous reusing or recycling.

“Place the cut pieces in a plastic bag and tie off. Place the tied plastic bag in the general waste bin for collection.”

Environmental experts estimate that one million masks and gloves are thrown away weekly.

Face masks have become an essential and mandatory accessory for Zimbabweans, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The new SOP further specifies the handling of Covid-19 waste by institutions other than the household.

“The waste should be transported in two bin liners (leak proof 100-micron),” states the regulations.

“The first bag carrying the waste should be sealed and 0,5 percent chlorine solution should be poured on top of the bag for disinfection.

“The bag is then further placed in the second bin liner and sealed for the transportation to the waste zone.

“The infectious waste should not be mixed with normal waste while transporting to the designated area for disposal.”

All personnel handling healthcare waste are required to wear appropriate PPE and perform hand hygiene after removing the waste. Also, sharp medical objects must be placed in puncture-resistant disposable containers and handled as clinical waste.

Human tissues and laboratory waste that is directly associated with specimen processing, the SOP adds, are treated as clinical waste and disposed in lined red bins labelled with the biohazard sign.

According to the guidelines: “Final disposal of Covid-19 waste at the incinerator should be done by designated persons at specified times.

“It is highly recommended to keep the Covid-19 waste incineration activities separate from the normal waste management procedures and destruction schedules.”

The guidelines provide for collection of the waste from medical institutions at least three times daily.

EMA’s environmental education and publicity manager Mrs Amkela Sidange said households should disinfect Covid-19 healthcare waste before disposal.

“At the household level, the waste can be managed by local authorities because users are supposed to disinfect first before putting them in the trash,” she said.

“Most people at the household level are using reusable masks. This reduces the numbers that local authorities have to deal with. Only in extreme cases may special management be needed.”

Harare City Council’s corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said the city already had its standard operating procedure for medical waste collection.

With regards Covid-19 waste, he said: “City does have procedures for collection and disposal of hazardous waste.

“It is collected separately and incinerated at various sites such as Golden Quarry.”