Government advise special precautions for disposing of infectious PPE

26 February 2021
What was claimed

There are no biohazard bins used for PPE such as masks and gloves.

Our verdict

Clinical waste bins aren’t advised for most people, though they are in some settings like hospitals. There are also guidelines in place to make contamination from infected PPE less likely, and disposal safer.

A Facebook post asks why, if SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) is so infectious, there are no biohazard bins for disposing of masks and gloves which may potentially be contaminated. 

Whilst it’s correct that biohazard or clinical waste bins are not recommended for the general public, there are special recommendations for the disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is at a high risk of being contaminated. Hospitals and health care facilities are also required to use clinical waste bins for disposing of PPE. 

We’ve written before about how infectious Covid-19 is and it’s transmission in hospitals.

What is the guidance?

The government does not advise the use of biohazard bins for most people, but does state that special measures should be taken for disposing of face masks and PPE (including items such as gloves and aprons) if somebody is self-isolating due to a suspected contact, or infection with Covid-19.

 It advises that to dispose of potentially infectious PPE in this instance, you should:

  • double bag them
  • store them for 72 hours before putting them in a ‘black bag’ waste bin

For all face masks and PPE, whether you are self-isolating or not, the government advises:

  • Do not put them in a recycling bin
  • Remove PPE carefully, and avoid touching the inside of your face covering
  • After you remove your PPE or face covering, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser

For people working in healthcare settings, where clinical waste bins are readily available, the advice is to dispose of PPE as clinical waste. This involves putting PPE in special orange or yellow and black bags which are sealed, labelled and disposed of by a specialist contractor. 

These measures could help to prevent transmission of the virus, as it is suspected that it can live on some surfaces for up to 72 hours, and some studies of other coronaviruses (the family of viruses which includes SARS-CoV-2) have even suggested that coronaviruses can live for up to 9 days on surfaces. 

The main route of transmission of SARS-CoV-2  is through cough and sneeze droplets spread in the air. However, if these droplets contaminate a surface and are picked up by somebody else, who then touches their face, the virus may find a route of entry and cause infection. Studies in laboratories have demonstrated that this is possible, but often very large amounts of virus are used and therefore some experts suggest that this may overstate the risk of transmission through this route.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as missing context Because although biohazard bins aren’t used for the general public, there are precautions in place to prevent contamination from infected PPE.

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