How to Treat Waste Related to COVID-19

cleaning wipes

As you are probably already aware there is a new infectious disease known as COVID-19 going around. This disease is caused by the Novel Coronavirus which was first identified in Wuhan, China and has now spread to over 100 countries including the United States. Here’s what you need to know about disposing of waste from suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Household Waste

Even if you suspect you or someone else in your household may have COVID-19, household waste can still be treated as normal. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with any objects you suspect could be contaminated. Household garbage can be set out for collection as normal. There is no need to indicate that your garbage may be contaminated. The Center for Disease Control has advised garbage collectors that no special precautions are necessary when dealing with household waste related to COVID-19.

As a reminder, single-use/anti-bacterial wipes should be disposed of in the trash, and this includes the so-called “flushable” wipes which aren’t actually flushable. Paper towels go in the mixed organic waste, unless they have been used with a non-biodegradable cleaner (in which case they should go in the trash). Please do not put any cleaning wipes, tissues or paper towels in the recycling. The cylindrical plastic cleaning wipes containers can go in the recycling when empty, along with any empty soap or hand sanitizer plastic bottles. Soap boxes, paper towel tubes and other clean paper items can continue to go in the recycling as well.

Business Waste

Similarly to household waste, waste from commercial businesses and retail entities can be managed as usual unless directed otherwise by local health authorities. Remember to wash your hands after dealing with objects you suspect could be contaminated.

Sharps and Medical Waste

The Healthcare Waste Institute recommends using single-use sharps containers for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. With that exception, all medical waste suspected to be contaminated with COVID-19 should be handled like other regulated medical waste. COVID-19 is not a Category A infectious substance so it doesn’t require special handling beyond standard medical waste.

How to Remove PPE

In addition to washing your hands, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can help reduce transmission. However, the effectiveness of PPE can be reduced if not removed properly. Here’s how the California Department of Public Health recommends you remove your PPE: “When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Then immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Next, remove and dispose of facemask, and immediately clean your hands again with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer. Place all used gloves, facemasks and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other household waste. Clean your hands (with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after handling these items.”

As the situation continues to evolve, waste handling measures may change. Be on the lookout for additional information from local health authorities.