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How should we dispose of used masks and other protective equipment?
How should we dispose of used masks and other protective equipment?
Karin Gallandat avatar
Written by Karin Gallandat
Updated over a week ago

After use, masks and gloves should be removed carefully, avoiding contact with parts of the mask or glove that could be contaminated (e.g. inside of the mask or outside of gloves - see Figure below). Hands should be washed with soap or sanitised using an alcohol-based hand rub afterwards. These videos show in more detail how to properly wear and remove a surgical mask and gloves.

Please note that the use of gloves in community settings is not currently recommended by WHO and CDC, except when caring for a sick individual.

How to remove gloves and masks. Source: CDC

Single-use PPE (such as disposable masks, gloves, or worn-out fabric masks) should be disposed of immediately after their removal, following the recommendations outlined above for domestic solid waste. They should not be recycled or thrown into toilets, where they could clog sewers. Littering of masks and gloves could have dramatic ecological consequences.

Given mask shortages in some settings, the WHO recommends precautions be taken to avoid the collection and re-selling of used masks that have been disposed of. Besides completely closing waste bags, these precautions may include defining fenced, regulated areas for waste disposal. Context-specific risk communication and community engagement strategies should also be considered to protect informal waste pickers if relevant.

Promoting reusable fabric face masks can minimise unnecessary waste. Reusable (fabric) masks should be washed and dried according to manufacturers’ instructions - general guidance is provided in this section.

Want to learn more about waste management in the home?

Editor's Note

Author: Karin Gallandat
Review: Molly Patrick, Sheillah Simiyu, Alessandra Ginocchi
Last Update: 24.8.2020

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