What are we going to do with all the PPE waste?

Doctor in full PPE checking blood samples

A year on from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and are we in a better or worse situation as a global population? PPE is currently being used everywhere right now, from hospitals to hospitality, we all understand why it is currently needed but what is the long term solution to the PPE waste that has been created since the pandemic began? 

Many of us probably didn’t know the term PPE before the start of 2020, it is now fair to say there isn’t many throughout the globe that haven’t come across the abbreviation. PPE has potentially saved millions of lives throughout the past 18 months, keeping people safe and giving people a sense of reassurance and protection they felt they needed during one of the toughest battles of the modern era, the by product of this protection is a colossal increase of PPE waste.

Doctor and nurses in full PPE, in the middle of surgery

What items are counted as PPE:

  • Masks
  • Face shields
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves
  • Bags
  • Hairnets
  • Overalls
  • Gowns
  • Shoe coverings

We live in a world where single-use PPE is now the norm, being thrown away after each patient, or after a certain period in use. PPE as we know it has been around for decades but its increase in use over the past 18 months has been truly astronomical.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant people on the front line of the battle are not only putting their health at risk but their families too, it is completely understandable to assume doctors, nurses and key workers would take a step back from sustainability when they are trying to protect themselves in work. This has caused a huge PPE waste problem, what was once a shortage of PPE at the start of the pandemic has now led to around 50 million face masks going to landfill every single day within the UK alone .

There is no doubt PPE has helped the world steady the fight on COVID-19 but we are now left with a huge task of creating programmes and solutions for where PPE waste will go and crucially how it will all be managed.

What should be done to PPE once used?

Like all medical waste, all PPE should be destroyed using high temperature incineration. Our range of Coronavirus Pandemic Incineration solutions are the obvious choice, they offer a quick, safe process that removes any chance of hazardous waste exposure. All PPE can be incinerated leaving nothing more than just ash (3%). Once this process has been completed, the resulting ash can then be disposed of in the most suitable and correct manner.

Incinerating PPE at hospitals or clinics is the ideal choice as it would all be destroyed onsite. This reduces potential cross-contamination from moving around hazardous waste. Well established hospitals and clinics manage this but for smaller establishments or ones located in lesser developed countries this simply may not be possible, this is where smaller or more portable incineration units become a vital part of this process – such as our Portable Medical Waste Incinerator

Doctor walking showcasing PPE glasses and mask

So why select a smaller potentially portable incinerator?

Smaller more portable incinerators offer the same effectiveness in destroying PPE & hazardous waste. These models can be supplied on a trailer or containerised meaning they are extremely mobile and easy to move, they can travel to and from different locations where needed. A smaller group of clinics in developing countries could have one unit that would be able to cover two or three clinics per week and still keep hazardous waste very secure and limiting any biosecurity threats

The future of PPE and the waste it creates

As we are all aware, PPE isn’t going anywhere fast, it is securely in society and used on a global scale every second of the day. It is the future of PPE that we have to look at, how it is used and how it is thrown away. We know it is needed and we know what it is used for but can we use technology or manufacturing techniques to change what we currently have? This could potentially have huge benefits going forward and have a monumental shift to reducing waste throughout the world.

For now, we must focus on reducing contamination and the chances of disease outbreaks, this is where Incineration comes in.

For more information in regards to incineration units and containerised options visit: Mobile IncineratorsClinical Waste Incinerators

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