While the rapid distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been essential to save lives during the Covid-19 response, PPE waste is also creating major environmental issues. To raise awareness of this problem and how to tackle it, Safetec Direct in the U.K. has created a comprehensive guide to properly and responsibly manage Covid related waste that should be of interest to facilities managers (FMs) in all industries, especially those in healthcare facilities.
Short-term and long-term effects of PPE damage on the environment
Wider plastic waste and the pandemic
How to safely dispose of PPE used during Covid-19
What types of PPE can be recycled
Advice for reducing the amount of PPE wastage
Here are just a handful of the insights from the guide:
In the UK, 784 million PPE items were used in hospitals in just a 53-day period at the start of the pandemic. This equated to a PPE disposal rate of 14 million pieces of equipment being thrown away daily.
If every person wears a single-use face mask every day for a year, as much as 66,000 tons of unrecyclable plastic from Covid related waste could be thrown away. This would cause damage to marine ecosystems, as well as pollution of natural resources.
The sudden need for single-use PPE, bubble wrap for the transportation of online shopping, and numerous other Covid-related factors have directly resulted in a surge in plastic production. Most of this plastic is “new plastic” rather than recycled plastic — new plastic is far more damaging to the environment but 83% to 93% cheaper to produce.