As businesses begin to assume normal operations while minimizing the risk of exposure to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Materials Management Division, Solid Waste Section, has received numerous calls from businesses in Michigan concerning the appropriate disposal of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is used for the safety of employees and to prevent infection risks from COVID-19.
The main question asked is whether this PPE waste should be handled as a medical waste or as a general solid waste, regardless of the operational functions of the facility (medical or non-medical).
In accordance with guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PPE used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may be discarded in the general trash, assuming that the waste would not otherwise be classified as a medical waste under Part 138, Medical Waste Regulatory Act, of the Public Health Code, 1978 PA 368, as amended (MWRA). This means if the PPE is not saturated with liquid human blood or body fluids to the point that it may release these fluids from the PPE, it is not considered to be regulated medical waste under the MWRA or CDC guidelines issued regarding COVID-19 PPE waste.
Facilities should encourage proper disposal of PPE and provide appropriate solid waste receptacles near entrances and exits to buildings for disposal of PPE, to help prevent littering. These receptacles should be emptied frequently by facility personnel equipped with appropriate PPE and any bags tightly tied before disposal as a precaution. The PPE to be discarded should never be placed into recycling containers, as recycling facilities and employees performing the sorting of the materials are exposed to the PPE, jeopardizing their safety and increasing risks to public health.