Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposing of waste

How to dispose of your personal or business waste, including face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), 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 and personal protective equipment (PPE) for social distancing

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.

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 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

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.

Published 13 July 2020