Confederation of Paper Industries issues plea for public to ensure PPE is disposed of safely, amidst fears waste material could contaminate recycling
With growing numbers of people taking to wearing face masks in public and debate continuing as to whether official advice should advocate their use, recyclers are this week warning that any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used by the public should be disposed of safely.
The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) yesterday warned that its members were seeing evidence that some people were disposing of PPE in their household recycling.
PPE such as face masks and disposable gloves are not recyclable through conventional recycling facilities. As such, disposing of them with household recycling contaminates resources that could be recycled and also potentially puts frontline workers at risk of infection.
"In recent days and weeks, we have received disturbing reports and images of PPE, including discarded masks and gloves in household collected recycled paper," said Simon Weston, director of raw materials at the CPI.
"Whilst CPI welcomes the continuing support of the public in recycling household material and thereby sustaining a key manufacturing sector, PPE cannot be recycled with paper and board. It is vital that such material is disposed of properly in general refuse. Risking the health of key workers in this way undermines the good work and sacrifice that they and the majority of the public have and continue to make to overcome Covid-19."
The CPI is advising that instead of recycling PPE such materials should be treated in the same way as domestic medical waste, such as properly contained sharps and soiled hygiene products such as nappies and pads, and should be bagged separately and disposed of in general waste.
The advice follows a joint statement from leading waste and recycling companies last month, urging anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms to forego household recycling until they are fully recovered.
"Following government advice, to protect workers and combat the spread of infection, anyone who feels ill at home (whether diagnosed with COVID-19 or not) should place all their waste in the general rubbish bin, and should double-bag it, making sure the bags are securely tied," the statement advises. "They should then wait at least 72 hours before placing it out for collection. For now, this material should not be put in your recycling."
The government yesterday announced that workers in the waste and recycling industry are eligible for coronavirus tests if they are experiencing symptoms.
There has been speculation as to how the lockdown will impact waste and recycling levels, with some experts warning people spending more time at home will lead to a surge in food waste, while others have speculated that stay at home orders may result in more material being properly recycled.
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