Because the COVID-19 virus is “new,” what technically is known as a “novel virus,” there is a good amount of uncertainty surrounding it. This includes at least some level of ambiguity in regard to COVID-19 or coronavirus waste management. Through this article, we provide essential facts and information regarding coronavirus waste management. This data is conveyed to any individual who may find themselves confronted with the prospect of having to undertake coronavirus cleanup at their home, business, rental property, or some other location.

There is one cautionary note that must be made. As mentioned, COVID-19 is a novel or new virus. We are all only learning the specifics about this pathogen.  The information provided for your consideration today is what is considered the best practice in regard to coronavirus waste management at this time. 

If practices and procedures alter, we will endeavor to promptly update the information contained in this presentation. In addition, if coronavirus waste management laws, ordinances, or regulations change, we will strive to update such alterations here as well.

Governmental COVID-19 Waste Regulations

When considering the facts and factors associated with coronavirus waste management, the surest place to start is with applicable governmental regulations. Perhaps because of the around the clock news coverage, perhaps because of contradictory statements at times coming from governmental officials, there has been some degree of (understandable) confusion centering around official COVID-19 waste regulations.

The simple, bottom-line fact at this moment in time is that there are no additional or stricter waste management requirements associated with COVID-19 cleanup and waste disposal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that COVID-19 waste is no different from any other medical or biohazardous waste subject to being cleaned up or remediated and disposed. In addition, the CDC has thus far noted that COVID-19 doesn’t appear to require any additional or exceptional sanitization practices in order to decontaminate waste or a contaminated scene.

Proper Packaging Primer During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Initially, biohazard cleanup specialists and medical waste disposal providers initiated some temporary additional protocols when it came to packaging COVID-19 related waste. In short speed, the CDC and other agencies (including OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation) advised that no additional hazardous waste packing for disposal protocols were necessary in order to safely handle and dispose of items contaminated by this derivation of the coronavirus. 

In this regard, COVID-19 related waste is to be disposed of in a proper biohazardous waste receptacle. For non-sharp objects and materials, this can be an appropriately marked durable plastic bag or cardboard container. As always, sharps are to be disposed of in a suitable hard plastic container. 

The CDC has emphasized one key point. Waste receptacles containing COVID-19 contaminated items, objects, material, or associated biomatter must be properly and firmly sealed. Every reasonable effort must be taken to prevent contamination of people working “downstream” in the biowaste disposal system.  

As an additional reminder, if COVID-19 waste includes some type of liquid, that needs to be double-bagged. In the alternative, some type of solidifier or absorbent product needs to be utilized to eliminate the free liquid. 

A Reminder of What Is Not Disposed of via Biological Waste or Medical Waste Stream

The CDC has taken the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic to remind citizens and biowaste remediation professionals alike of what is not to be disposed of via the biological waste stream. Historically, as more attention is paid on biowaste remediation and disposal (as happens during an epidemic or pandemic), the biowaste stream ends up somewhat misused and even overburdened through the introduction of materials not to be disposed of through this particular stream. 

Items that are not to be disposed of as biological or medical waste include:

  • Complete human remains
  • Untreated Category A infectious substances (infectious substances that are human and animal pathogens which are capable of causing permanent disability, life-threatening, or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans)
  • Chemicals
  • RCRA hazardous or universal waste (batteries, lightbulbs, hazardous pharmaceuticals)
  • Compressed gas cylinders, aerosol cans, inhalers
  • Devices or objects containing mercury
  • Radioactive waste

Summary of Basic Coronavirus Waste Management Safety Measures

In conclusion, a summary of basic COVID-19 safety measures is helpful and does play a role when it comes to coronavirus waste management:

  • Follow proper hand hygiene
  • Maintain safe distances (including proper physical distancing between individuals, also known as social distancing)
  • Always make proper use of personal protective equipment or PPE
  • Engage in proper risk mitigation (including remote working from home when possible)
  • Stop all nonessential travel
  • Stay at home except for essential activities (including grocery shopping, medical appointments, exercise that complies with physical distancing requirements)
  • Voluntary 14-day quarantine if exposure to COVID-19 reasonably is suspected

Once again, this information is in a continual state of review. At this time, the information presented here is considered coronavirus waste management best practices.