Experts warn PPE waste leading to increased health risk to frontline waste sector workers
The Confederation of Paper Industries has warned that the rise in use of disposable face masks and gloves being used to help slow the spread of Coronavirus is resulting in an increased risk in infection to refuse and recycling workers. Despite calls for the public to use masks made of cloth,this has done little to deter people from using PPE made from single-use plastics, which are often not disposed of correctly. They are regularly put in recycling or left in public areas, putting frontline sanitation workers at greater risk of becoming infected, and those not picked up often end up in waterways.
In regards to how PPE should be disposed of correctly, the CPI has issued a statement to implore people not to put used masks and gloves in recycling. The advice to the public is to treat PPE as other medical or hygiene waste such as plasters or nappies, and to dispose in general waste.
Additionally, leading conservationists have warned that the rise of use in disposable face masks and gloves is resulting in an increase of plastic pollution in our oceans, especially when they are not discarded correctly.
Once in the ocean, plastic pollution can be ingested by sea life, which is not only a threat to wildlife species but also poses an increased health risk to humans who consume seafood.
Around 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year, accounting to 80 per cent of all marine debris. The general message is that it is essential that PPE needs to be disposed of correctly in order to limit the risk to key workers in the waste industry, as well as lessen the impact it has on the environment.