How to correctly classify waste personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 

The Compliance People Consultant Kerry Hammick looks how waste PPE should be classified using the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) codes during Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the topic of PPE to the fore; stories about PPE shortages, distribution issues, and safety standards have dominated the media headlines. We have seen unprecedented volumes of PPE being used and disposed of up and down the UK, and yet the question of how it should be correctly disposed of is less clear. To help clarify this matter, the Environment Agency (EA) has outlined its principles on how to code waste PPE generated from various settings.  

General principles for correctly coding waste 

The European Waste Catalogue (EWC) is a list of waste types, established by European Commission Decision 2000/532/EC which categorises wastes based on a combination of what the waste comprises of, and the process or activity that produces it. It is a standardised way of describing waste whereby individual waste types are assigned a six-digit code from one of the 20 waste chapters that make up the Catalogue. With the EWC, it must be remembered that the code given should always be based on the process that gave arising to the waste, for example, Chapter 18 of the EWC is purely for wastes generated from healthcare facilities / professionals. This is useful to bear in mind when coding PPE waste.  

PPE separated out from other waste streams 

PPE such as general everyday masks and gloves that are not being used in a medical setting and are being separated out from the normal mixed waste stream with the intention of being collected separately should be classified as Chapter 15 waste, EWC code 15-02-03. It does not need to be classified as infectious or hazardous waste.  

PPE disposed of within the ‘normal’ mixed waste stream 

If the PPE waste is being disposed of in the ‘normal’ waste stream (which given the current circumstances, and the potential increase in this waste, is deemed as reasonable by the EA) then it would be disposed of as normal mixed waste coded under the relevant Chapter 20 code, EWC code 20-03-01. A specific waste code for the PPE contained within the waste stream is not required in this instance.  

PPE used in a setting where there are confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

PPE would only be considered as infectious waste if it came from people who are confirmed positive with Coronavirus (COVID-19), who are showing symptoms (as a worst-case scenario), or has been used in a setting specifically dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. In these instances, the waste PPE would be classified as infectious clinical waste within Chapter 18, EWC code 18-01-03. Public Health England has set out guidance on storing and disposing of such waste. 

As the situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to unfold it is likely that there will be many more questions to address and changes to the way businesses operate. Look out for future blog posts where The Compliance People will keep you up to date with what is happening, and what this means for you and your business.  

If you have any further questions regarding how to classify and code waste, please get in touch.