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Guidance for Care Homes on the disposal of waste

During the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely that Care Homes will be dealing with increased waste both from materials that have come into direct contact with infected individuals and from the additional PPE that staff are using when looking after them.

This guidance has been compiled to clarify how Care Homes should be segregating, handling and storing waste to minimise the risk of infection from contaminated waste to staff and waste collection operatives.

General information about waste classification and disposal

It is the responsibility of the Care Home to ensure that the waste being generated on their premises is managed appropriately. 

They should have well established protocols in place for the segregation and safe storage and collection of waste following the guidance, Infection Control Guidance for Registered Care Homes, HCS 2016. 

This contains a section on waste definition and classification which should be applied when dealing with waste from COVID-19 suspected or confirmed patients. It is particularly important currently that segregation of waste is in line with the requirements in the guidance. 

The correct coloured bags should be used for the different types of waste following the table below.

​WasteTypes of waste​Plastic bag colour​
​Domestic​Other general waste (food waste, packaging paper and household materials).
Other items of domestic type waste should be separated and recycled as appropriate where facilities exist.
General waste from Care Homes where Covid-19 patients live.  (note additional precautionary measures for general waste in black bags (double bag, store for 72 hours prior to collection)
​Black
​Non-hazardous 
​Offensive / hygiene waste (includes ANY blood or bodily fluid stained waste that is:
a) NON-INFECTIOUS, as assessed by a healthcare practitioner and
b) DOES NOT CONTAIN pharmaceutical or chemical substances)
​White
​Hazardous​Clinical wastes presenting an Infection risk - this includes waste from the treatment, care and cleaning rooms of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patients.​Yellow

If Care Homes follow this guidance on how they segregate, store and label waste then the waste collection companies will be able to risk assess appropriately and make sure that they have the right measures in place to ensure the safety of their workers. 

Waste associated with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19

Waste arising directly from the care of the patient should be treated as hazardous waste and should go in yellow bags. This includes PPE and all items that would normally be classed as offensive waste as it should be treated as waste which presents an infection risk.

All waste arising from the cleaning of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient’s room should be disposed of a hazardous waste and should go in yellow bags.

Items that the patient has touched (for example drinks cartons, food packaging, disposable cups and cutlery) should be treated as general waste and should go in black bin bags. 

Waste from other patients and within the facility generally

All other waste generated within the facility should be assessed and segregated as per the established waste segregation and disposal protocols in operation.

Additional requirement on the storage and disposal of all general waste from Care Homes

It is thought that the COVID-19 virus may be able to remain active on surfaces for up to 72 hours.  Therefore, all general black bag waste should be managed following a precautionary approach.

All general black bag waste from Care Homes should be:

  • double bagged and tied securely
  • stored securely and labelled / segregated by the date of disposal
  • left for 72 hours prior to being put out for the normal general waste collection

Bulky external packaging, such as cardboard boxes, should be stored for 72 hours before being discarded in the usual fashion recycling or otherwise.

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