2 September 2020

How to Responsibly Dispose of PPE Waste

Read Time: 4 mins

Just as there was an increase of litter in public spaces when the lockdown lifted across the UK, there has also been an increase in instances of PPE being irresponsibly disposed of in towns and city centres. With masks and face coverings mandatory in shops, enclosed spaces and public transport and with students heading back to schools, there’s the danger of PPE equipment becoming the number one source of litter the UK. Clearabee know a thing or two about rubbish removal, so just how do you responsibly dispose of PPE waste?

When dealing with PPE waste, you should consult Public Health England in the first instance. The information on Public Health England’s site will be updated with the latest government guidelines as they happen. As the guidance stands, getting rid of used face coverings and PPE is quite straightforward if it hasn’t come into contact with anyone who is infected. If this is the case, then face coverings should be disposed of along with your domestic waste in black bags or in a litter bin.

old mask

On the other hand, if the PPE or face coverings are associated with someone who is self-isolating with coronavirus or related symptoms, then these should be double-bagged and stored for 72 hours before being disposed of with your domestic bin bag waste. In either instance, if you’re in a workplace or organisation, you can also repsonsibly dispose of your PPE through yellow and black “offensive waste” bins.

Reusable or disposable face masks?

Of course, that guidance is in place for disposable facemasks and coverings only. If you’re using a cloth or homemade face mask, then you can reduce wastage by washing it as you would your weekly laundry. But disposable or single use facemasks should be disposed of as soon as they get damp, which means that there are a lot of facemasks that will need disposing of on an ongoing basis. To put a figure on it, Greenmatters estimates that 129 million face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are being used every single month across the globe.

Amanda Keetley, founder of Less Plastic told The Independent that reusable face masks are the healthiest option when it comes to protecting the planet, adding; “Anything that’s been specifically created to be used just once and then thrown away, will either end up in landfill, or escape into nature as our waste infrastructure can’t cope with the volumes we produce.”


Recycling PPE Equipment

Currently, recycling face masks and coverings is not an option as there is no effective and practical way to extract the plastic elements from the rest of the mask. This means that, as Amanda Keetley describes, the masks themselves will end up going to landfill or worse still, our oceans.

As a result, these types of PPE should not be deposited into recycling bins as their eventual handling could put frontline workers in harm’s way as they collect, handle and sort through the recyclable items. This also effectively contaminates the recyclable items that the face masks are included in, so not only are frontline workers put at further risk, but the contaminated items will also have to be sent to landfill rather than being recycled.

Recycling with Clearabee

Although recycling PPE is not an option, Clearabee can make sure that the majority of your items can be recycled, reused or repurposed. Whether it’s bulky waste items such as wardrobes, mattresses or sofas, right down to the contents of your skip or Skip Bag, Clearabee divert from landfill over 95% of the waste we collect from our UK waste clearances.

Using local Waste Transfer Stations, we ensure that our ‘Man and Van’ journeys are kept down to an average of less than 15 miles per trip. This, alongside our ultra-light van chassis help to us to keep our fuel consumption and carbon emissions down. What’s more, since 2013 we have planted 19,674 trees in our two UK forests, which helps us to completely offset our carbon usage meaning that with Clearabee, not only can your clear your unwanted waste but you can make sure you’re doing your bit for the planet too

Removing rubbish (and helping the planet). It’s what we do.


About Clearabee

Clearabee operates nationwide on-demand rubbish clearance and waste removal services, with over 120 vehicles and 300 directly employed staff. Our core services include our industry-leading rubbish clearance service as well as our Skip Bag, skip hire and sofa removal services.

Clearabee has been ranked as the fastest-growing waste management company in Europe for 3 years running and featured on The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track for the last two years.

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