Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposing of waste

How to dispose of your personal or business waste, including face coverings, personal protective equipment (PPE) and from lateral flow tests, during the coronavirus pandemic.

This guidance applies in England only.

Find information about recycling during the coronavirus pandemic on the Recycle Now website.

This guidance does not apply to healthcare settings including:

  • hospitals
  • primary care providers
  • care homes
  • home care

Read guidance for healthcare settings:

If you work in a healthcare setting and are not sure how to manage PPE waste, ask your employer for guidance.

Face coverings, PPE and lateral flow devices (LFDs)

To find out when you must wear a face covering, read the guidance on staying safe outside your home.

You should wash and reuse cloth face coverings to prevent and reduce waste. Read guidance on how to make and wear a reusable cloth face covering.

You should remove PPE and face coverings carefully, and avoid touching the inside of your face covering. Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser, after removing.

If you need to throw away used face coverings or PPE, such as gloves:

  • dispose of them in your ‘black bag’ waste bin at home or at work, or a litter bin if you’re outside
  • do not put them in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
  • take them home with you if there is no litter bin - do not drop them as litter

You do not need to:

  • put them in an extra bag
  • store them for a time before throwing them away

Home lateral flow device tests

If you’re doing a rapid lateral flow test yourself at home you should dispose of the test in the small waste bag provided with the kit.

You can consider LFDs as normal household or workplace waste and dispose of them accordingly, however there is more detailed guidance for LFD waste disposal in other settings.

If you’re self isolating

If you or a member of your household is self-isolating at home, follow the stay at home guidance.

To dispose of any face coverings or PPE you or members of your household use when self- isolating, you should:

  • double bag them
  • store them for 72 hours before putting them in a ‘black bag’ waste bin

Do not put them in a recycling bin.

Remove PPE carefully, and avoid touching the inside of your face covering.

After you remove your PPE or face covering, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser.

If you run a business or organisation

Read guidance for employers and businesses on working safely during coronavirus.

You should:

  • provide extra bins for your staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware
  • make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
  • make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter

You do not need to collect PPE separately but, if you do, you must describe and code your waste correctly.

Ask your waste contractor if there is anything else you need to do.

If your staff are using PPE at work to protect against risks other than coronavirus, they can throw it away in the usual way.

You can put used disposable face coverings and PPE in an ‘offensive waste’ collection (yellow bags with a black stripe), if you have one.

You may be able to use specialist PPE recycling services for some items. Ask your waste contractor.

Cleaning waste

If you’re producing additional waste because of extra cleaning of work places, business premises and public places during coronavirus, you should dispose of this waste as normal.

Put used cloths and wipes in the ‘black bag’ waste bin.

You do not need to put them in an extra bag or store them for a time before throwing them away.

If you’re managing a suspected or confirmed outbreak of coronavirus follow the guidance on cleaning non-healthcare settings.

If you or a member of your household is self-isolating at home, follow the stay at home guidance on how to dispose of cleaning materials.

Litter picking during coronavirus

If you see litter you can report it to your local council.

You can carry out voluntary litter-picking. If you do this with other people you must follow the guidance on staying safe outside your home.

If you collect littered face coverings or PPE, handle these with care. Dispose of them in a ‘black bag’ bin, not in a recycling bin. You should use safety equipment, including thick gloves, litter-pickers and heavy-duty bags. Read further information on the Keep Britain Tidy website.

Lateral flow device tests

This guidance is for managing waste from LFDs approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Department of Health and Social Care only.

Waste management businesses

Waste management businesses should continue to follow appropriate guidance for hygiene and health and safety practices. Waste from LFDs and the testing process do not present any increased risk compared to that of personal hygiene waste.

Registered healthcare facilities and dedicated mass testing locations

LFD test wastes from registered healthcare facilities and dedicated mass testing locations should be coded as non-hazardous offensive healthcare waste.

Waste packaging, swabs, cartridges, devices and PPE should be segregated following guidance on waste codes for mass testing with lateral flow antigen testing devices to enable their proper collection and management.

This waste is not classed as infectious waste and so should not be placed in orange bags. Storage of this waste must follow the health technical memoranda (HTM) 07-01 packaging guidance. This waste should be collected either as part of your existing washroom or healthcare waste collection service, or separately to that of recyclable material and residual (black bag) waste.

You should follow different guidance on testing in schools, the workplace and other settings where LFD testing is an addition to normal business.

Outer packaging provided with the LFD test kits can be recycled or disposed of through your existing waste streams.

You must ensure that all waste that you produce, including that from the LFD test kits, is handled appropriately by a licenced waste management company.

You must do this in accordance with your waste duty of care.

Following collection, waste swabs and cartridges/devices must be either taken to a:

  • facility permitted by the Environment Agency to accept this waste, including municipal waste incinerators temporarily permitted to accept this waste under a regulatory position statement
  • landfill site permitted to accept this waste
  • waste transfer facility where they are not mixed with any other healthcare wastes that is permitted (including those who have an approved relevant local enforcement position) to accept this waste and manage this alongside other mixed wastes at that facility

If you set up a LFD testing facility you will be given detailed guidance documents (standard operating procedures). These include instructions on the correct disposal routes for any equipment and consumables that are part of those testing kits.

Schools, the workplace and other settings

Follow this guidance for LFD testing being done as an additional function to normal business, such as at a:

  • school
  • workplace that is not a registered healthcare facility and not a dedicated site for the purpose of the NHS Test and Trace

LFD wastes from these locations are not considered to be healthcare wastes. LFD wastes can be managed alongside other wastes at your location, for example, black bag waste.

You should discuss your arrangements for the management of LFD test kit wastes with your waste management contractor first.

You should segregate LFD wastes from any recyclable packaging or other material.

Outer packaging provided with the LFD test kits can be recycled or disposed of through your existing waste streams.

Once a LFD test is complete:

  • all of the used LFD test kit (swabs, cartridges and devices) should be placed in the small waste bag provided with the kit, this should then be put in your black bag waste bins
  • any disposable equipment such as face coverings, gloves, or aprons worn during the LFD testing process, either by those doing the test or those supervising others, should be put in your black bag waste bins

Under your waste management duty of care you must ensure that all waste you produce, including that from the LFD test kits, is handled appropriately by a licenced waste management company.

Published 13 July 2020
Last updated 5 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added guidance on how to dispose of lateral flow tests.

  2. First published.