According to the European Commission, there is no evidence to date suggesting that domestic solid waste plays a role in COVID-19 transmission and international agencies consistently recommend to follow standard solid waste management procedures.
WHO recommendations for solid waste management in the home in presence of a sick, quarantined or convalescing individual include the following:
Rapidly dispose of potentially infectious materials, such as tissues used when sneezing or coughing or disposable clothes used for cleaning, into a waste bin. ECDC recommends the use of separate waste bins for sick individuals and other household members, whereas according to some national guidelines, all waste produced by households with COVID-19 positive individuals should be considered as infectious waste.
Use strong, completely closed bags to pack waste. Double bagging can also help ensure infectious waste items are safely packed (e.g. a small bin liner could be used by the infected individual, then closed and added to a larger bag for municipal waste collection). To reduce direct contact with potentially contaminated waste, UNEP recommends to seal bags before they are 70% filled. National guidelines should be followed regarding the use of color-coded waste bags or containers.
Waste bags can be picked up and treated by municipal collection services following national guidelines or UN-HABITAT recommendations (and with workers wearing adequate personal protective equipment). In absence of such services, safe burying or controlled burning may be considered as alternatives. Please note that waste with high humidity contents (e.g. food waste) is not suitable for burning, and open dumping or burning of solid waste presents environmental and health hazards. Some recommendations for the safe burying and/or incineration of solid waste are provided here, in this guide (Chapter 5) as well as in this document (pages 18-23).
Wash hands with soap or use an alcohol-based hand rub after any contact with waste.
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Author: Karin Gallandat
Review: Molly Patrick, Sheillah Simiyu, Alessandra Ginocchi
Last Update: 24.8.2020