UK facing COVID waste disposal challenge

24 October 2023 by CSG

Millions of pieces of Covid-related equipment including masks, testing kits and vaccines will need to be disposed of correctly and ethically as they pass their shelf life, an expert as warned.

With items such as face coverings and lateral flow tests in less demand – and far fewer people getting vaccinated than during the height of the pandemic – waste management specialists are expecting a deluge of enquiries about the method proper disposal.

It is estimated that millions of pieces of PPE and equipment have been stockpiled by businesses and health organisations across the country.

Greg Smith, Technical Manager at specialist waste company CSG Recovery, said: “The build-up of Covid-related items and equipment is just another hangover of the pandemic.

“It was essential at the time that businesses and organisations stockpiled medical supplies like masks, hand gels, gloves and lateral flow kits. It wasn’t clear how long the pandemic would last.

“Now many of these items have passed their expiration date and need to be disposed of – and there are many vaccines which have also passed their shelf life.

“We’re starting to see enquiries come through and, as we have experience in clinical waste, we’ve been able to help ethically dispose of some vaccination vials and syringes.”

Greg said some items such as gloves could be reused in a range of applications but other equipment such as hand sanitiser and vaccines need to be treated differently.

It is a legal requirement for businesses to dispose of clinical waste properly – and hand sanitiser can be dangerous due to its flammable nature.

CSG Recovery, based in Blackburn, will first strip the recyclable elements from the items, including plastic and cardboard. Any parts which cannot be recycled are separated and sent to waste-to-energy recovery centres that convert the heat generated from waste into power for homes.

“We have got solutions for all Covid-related waste and work with partners for clinical and offensive waste,” said Greg.

“It’s important that businesses in particular think about how they sustainably and ethically dispose of this equipment.”

Part of the CSG Group, CSG Recovery specialises in the processing and recovery of complex or hazardous waste – including aerosols, oily contaminated by-products from industrial customers and clinical and photographic waste – from businesses operating in a range of sectors including healthcare.