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Schools Reopening – Dealing With COVID Testing Waste

Schools Reopening – Dealing With COVID Testing Waste
09 March 2021
 

As the roadmap to returning all pupils to schools and colleges begin this week, what do FMs working in education need to consider regarding COVID testing and the resulting waste? 

All students in England will begin to return to face-to-face education from 8 March, and all secondary school and college students will take three COVID-19 tests at existing school testing facilities. 

What this means from a facilities management point of view, is a huge increase in the production of challenging waste. UK waste regulations mean that COVID tests must be correctly managed to avoid it presenting a health risk to others.

 

lateral flow test

 

Combination of Offensive and Non-Hazardous Waste

 

Additionally, the UK government recently ramped up its workplace rapid testing programme, cutting the qualifying threshold for businesses to just 50 employees (from 250). This means that the testing regime could now be available to somewhere in the region of 43,000 businesses and 14.4 million employees.

Waste produced from lateral flow antigen testing devices and PPE are classified as offensive waste whilst the swabs and cartridges are also classified as non-hazardous chemical waste. As a result, used items need to be stored and collected separately from all other types of waste. They must also be treated in properly permitted waste management facilities.

“Regular COVID-19 testing is something that is going to be with us for the foreseeable future” commented Peter Hunt, CEO of waste management company Wastecare.

“The increased availability of lateral flow testing has resulted in large numbers of businesses producing clinical and offensive waste that would not ordinarily do so.  To avoid a build-up of this waste, it is vital that these businesses are able to dispose of it safely and in a cost-effective manner. By keeping it separate from their general waste and treating it properly, we can ensure that testing waste does not present further health issues or support the spread of the virus.”

 

Collection Services

 

Several waste management providers are offering collection services for lateral flow test waste, including Wastecare, which can supply appropriate clinical waste bags or boxes for absorbent pads, vials and tissues, as well as used PPE.

Once collected, the waste is treated at WasteCare’s high-temperature incineration facility which also generates electricity from the energy recovered from the treatment process.

Picture: a photograph of a schoolchild in a classroom, wearing a mask

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 09 March 2021

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