While lots of attention surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is on finding amply medical supplies–ventilators, masks, gloves and sterilized hospital gowns–there is growing concern about its impact on the trash collection system.
Can we safely dispose of the surge in infectious wastes from hospitals, first responders and residents?
American hospitals are already generating huge volumes of contaminated trash that needs to be specially treated as the number of COVID-19 infections and related deaths skyrocket. That rapid growth is expected to continue through April.
The coronavirus presents some difficult challenges because it deadly, persistent in air vapor droplets and is longer lasting on door knobs, food and bathroom counters and other surfaces. As we are learning, it can infect people by simply touching their faces. It is spiking the demand for face masks, gloves and sanitary wipes — all of which show up in hospital and household garbage.
Stericycle, one of America’s largest handlers of medical waste processers, says it has seen an influx of masks, gloves and gowns in recent weeks. The company steam-sterilizes infectious trash before it is landfilled or incinerated.