School Covid-19 testing waste advice for contractors

Waste management contractors and similar businesses handling waste items from coronavirus testing in schools may be able to store the material if necessary, before moving it on for disposal treatment.

Letsrecycle.com has been advised by official sources that several matters need to be considered by contractors handling the lateral flow test waste. Secondary schools and colleges will be carrying out the tests and with most having key worker and some other pupils attending, the waste will arise over the coming months.

The advice comes as some businesses have told letsrecycle.com that they have found it difficult to get clarity on how the waste should be handled, with one contractor reporting that a school said the testing waste could go in with general waste.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking at a sample at a Lateral Flow Testing Laboratory in November 2020 (picture: Alex Gakos, Shutterstock)

Testing and PPE waste

The advice is that municipal waste contractors and washrooms services contractors contacted by schools and local authorities requesting collection of the lateral flow device testing waste and PPE waste, will have to do this in accordance with all relevant Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) guidance and the relevant legislation.

A key element of this legislation is given at Coronavirus (COVID-19) lateral flow tests waste codes. This DHSC guidance lists how items such as packaging, absorbent pads, vials, and PPE should be handled.  Lateral Flow Test Cartridges, pads, vials and tissues should be classed as chemical waste while PPE should be classed as offensive. EWC codes are also given for the material. Incineration is the main treatment route for the chemical and offensive waste.

Lateral Flow Test Cartridges, pads, vials and tissues should be classed as chemical waste while PPE should be classed as offensive

Municipal waste incinerators

Also of note to contractors is that clinical waste incinerators are not the only option for the waste. The option of sending the waste to a small number of municipal waste incinerators applies because these have been approved to facilitate the incineration of Lateral Flow Device testing wastes as the Environment Agency has deemed this waste can be safely handled and destroyed in this way (see Regulatory Position Statement C23) and (see letsrecycle.com story)

For contractors who may have to store the waste if asked to do so before it is moved to the treatment operation, the Environment Agency can provide Local Enforcement Positions (LEPs). This will be for appropriate Transfer Stations which can store this type of waste if requested, providing the operator can demonstrate it can do this safely. Requests for this should be made via the site’s local Agency compliance officer.

The advice is expected to be welcomed by a number of contractors as a wide range of businesses, from local to national, provide waste collection services to schools.

Note: The above information applies to England and may differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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