Effortless and Eco-Friendly ways to Dispose of PPE in 2022

PPE scattered throughout bushes and grass.

Pollution of PPE is on the rise, not only in Canada but also on a global scale. The Government of Canada (2020) predicts over 63,000 tonnes of waste will end up in our landfills, a direct result of improper disposal of Covid-19 PPE and especially masks. Before the pandemic disposable masks, gloves and wipes have exclusively been used in the medical field. Over the last year, everyone and their grandma has been accessorized with vinyl gloves and wet wipes whenever they leave their house. 

Hospitals and medical facilities have protocols in place for disposing of PPE correctly (special recycling, incineration or disinfecting before landfilled), but the general public often doesn’t have access to such sophisticated procedures. This has resulted in an overwhelming amount of PPE littering our environment, landfills and sewage lines (plumbers must be going through it). There have also been countless reports of wildlife mistaking PPE for food or even getting entangled in it.

This is a far cry from the drastic effects we saw in the first few months of lockdown. The stay-at-home orders meant virtually zero traffic and essentially turned major cities into ghost towns. There was a massive decline in air pollutants, ultimately improving air quality worldwide (Liu, et al., 2021). These positive impacts highlighted the potential difference we can make to the environment. I believe we can do the same with the pollution of PPE, especially now that Canada is beginning to lift mask mandates and fewer people will be wearing disposable PPE. We have collected the following information on how you can properly dispose of PPE and what we can all do to reduce the pollution in our environment. 

Do not recycle your PPE.

PPE cannot be easily recycled due to a mixture of materials used to make it and the health risk to workers who sort recycling. There are advanced recycling options available, but it is commonly expensive and not something traditional recycling programs offer. If you are someone who frequently wears disposable PPE, there are paid recycling services available. 

Avoid harm to wildlife.

When disposing of PPE, cut any strings or components that could cause wildlife to get entangled in the waste. It is also important to dispose of PPE in a tightly sealed bag. A frequent problem is the garbage falling out of open bags and ending up on the street or in nature. 

PPE doesn’t belong in the toilet.

Why do we even need to say this one? Remi (2021) reported that, although the flushing of improper waste isn’t new, it is becoming worse due to the increased usage of disposable PPE. I can’t fathom why an individual would want to flush their used masks or gloves down the toilet, other than for a strange science experiment. So, please, don’t do this.

Donate & volunteer.

To combat the overwhelming rise in PPE pollution, more nonprofits are working to organize cleanups at beaches, parks and city streets. Whether you’re able to provide a monetary amount or dedicate an afternoon to help clean, it means we are one step closer to a better future. 

We must do our part to be conscientious and lessen climate change’s negative impact on our planet. It’s important to acknowledge that some of the richest industries in the world are the primary contributors to the emission of greenhouse gases. Our society is combating a plethora of hurdles and the only way we will overcome them is by working together to take a stand. We can do this by refusing to support massive industries and investing our money into local businesses.

To learn more about what sustainable options you can choose for your sanitation lineup at home or work, call (204) 477-4747.

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