COVID-19: Here is what you should do to safely dispose your used mask

Some simple guidelines to ensure safe disposal of used masks

By Dinesh Raj Bandela
Published: Friday 08 May 2020
Photo: Zoe1013 via Wikimedia
Photo: Zoe1013 via Wikimedia Photo: Zoe1013 via Wikimedia

The face mask has emerged as the most important weapon in our arsenal against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in addition to hand-washing and social distancing.

However, with billions of people globally and in India using masks every day since the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic started, the question that arises is: What about their safe disposal.

To ensure safe disposal & handling of masks during the COVID-19 crisis, the following steps should be followed:

COVID-19 Isolation Wards / Test Centres and Laboratories: Used masks (including triple layer mask, N95 mask, etc) have to be discarded and collected in separate ‘yellow colour coded plastic bags’ (suitable for biomedical waste collection). They have to be handed over to the waste collector engaged by common biomedical waste treatment facility (CBWTF) operator at the doorstep and should be incinerated.

Quarantined homes or other households: Used masks should be kept in a paper bag for a minimum of 72 hours prior to their disposal as general waste. This must be done in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. It is also advised to cut the masks prior to disposal to prevent their reuse.

Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has advised non-quarantined homes and residents to dispose used masks by disinfecting them with ordinary bleach solution (five per cent) or sodium hypo-chlorite solution (one per cent). Further, wrap and keep in a closed bin before handing the mask over to the sanitary worker. This waste must be treated as domestic hazardous waste and should be incinerated by GCC.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have indicated that the masks used by patients / care givers / close contacts during home care should be disinfected using ordinary bleach solution (five per cent) or sodium hypochlorite solution (one per cent) and then disposed of either by burning or deep burial.

From containment zones / hotspots and sealed regions (ie red and orange zones): Used masks among others (gloves, aprons, head cover etc) should be disposed and collected separately by the waste collectors and have to be incinerated or buried at a depth of at least 10 feet from the Earth’s surface in order to prevent infection. Also, the sanitation staff have to be advised not to mix waste from these hotspots / containment and sealed zones with the other localities.

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