Expert warns discarded masks, gloves could spread coronavirus
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Unique Waste Solutions director Divan Botha said many people didn’t know the correct way to get rid of face masks and protective gloves.
“We've seen that the virus can live longer on certain items depending on the surface. If they don't dispose of protective equipment in the correct manner, it can immediately put other people in danger if they come close to those masks and gloves. If children are found playing with those things and touch their mouths, eyes and noses, they could contract the virus,” he said.
The medical and hazardous waste specialist suggested people should stop using gloves and opt for a washable cloth mask. This way there would not be much worry about “everybody discarding gloves and masks everywhere”.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has issued official guidelines on how fabric masks for use by the public should be constructed.
The guide forms part of an updated set of regulations for public entities on how to procure PPE, which is in short supply globally.
Botha said considering the fact that nobody could see the virus and that it could be everywhere, gloves and masks were indirectly then “medical waste”. There was no way that a hazardous waste company would put waste boxes in public spaces because it would become a bigger health hazard, he added.
“What would be the point of having a lockdown when you're sourcing all your waste streams into one direction? With the level 4 lockdown, recyclers are going to start opening up.
“If people throw them (masks, gloves) into a regular municipal dustbin, then all the people who collect the rubbish and the people who go through dustbins for recycled goods are at risk. It creates a snowball effect and makes everything worse,” Botha said.