Your face mask is hazardous waste and should not be thrown in the bin

As South Africans come to terms with their new accessory‚ the face mask industry is churning out an assortment of colours and shapes to keep Mzansi both safe and fashionable.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had social media chuckling when he fumbled with his face mask after giving a televised speech on April 23. But wearing one is still compulsory and how we dispose of them is no joke. Image: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

But as the months wear on and we update our masks the health department has warned that we can’t just throw them away. Face masks are considered to be hazardous waste and should be treated as such.

National health department spokesperson Popo Maja said it was for these reasons that the department did not want the public to use surgical masks because they were single-use masks.

He said there were no guidelines for public disposal of single-use masks.

“They are supposed to be disposed of separate from household refuse and as hazardous waste.”

And‚ unlike in our homes‚ hospitals have systems in place to dispose of hazardous waste.

Because the masks are used to stop the spread of infectious disease they need to be treated as though they are contaminated with the virus‚ according to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act No 59 of 2008‚ Hazardous waste Part 2 section 16.

Among other regulations‚ the holder of hazardous waste must:
Make sure the masks are collected so that they cannot be reused;
Make sure that the masks are collected and stored in a way that they cannot pose a danger to anyone else;
And make sure that the masks are treated and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.
Treatment of hazardous waste will include using an autoclave‚ a device that uses steam to kill bacteria‚ or incineration‚ and then dumping it at a site used for hazardous waste management.

Xanthea Limberg‚ Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water and waste‚ said there were rules for general waste which could include masks and other items which could have come into contact with Covid-19.

According to the provincial guidelines on waste items such as used tissues‚ wipes and other disposables that have been used by someone who has or is suspected of having Covid-19‚ they should be disposed of in a separate container.

This waste should be double-bagged and must be on the property for at least five days before placing it in a collection bin.

She said‚ where possible‚ one should sanitise the bin lid and handles before placing the bin out for collection and before bringing it back on to the property.

She asked that residents keep a physical distance from city staff at all times.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) masks that become damp‚ because of moisture from the nose and mouth‚ need to be replaced immediately.

The cheapest‚ easiest to clean and the most environmentally friendly mask is a triple-layered fabric mask which can be washed and reused.

Three layers of fabric are what the WHO recommends will safely prevent the virus from getting through the mask to your face.
Fabric masks can be used until visibly soiled or damaged.

Health department guidelines for the use of a cloth mask:
Only use a mask that has been washed and ironed.
Wash your hands before putting on the mask.
Place the mask with the correct side facing your face‚ and ensure it properly covers both your nose and mouth.
Tie the strings behind your head. If you are using elastic bands‚ make sure these are tight.
Make sure the mask fits well. Move it around to get the best fit. Never touch the cloth part.
Once you have put on the mask‚ do not touch your face again until you take it off.
When you take it off‚ undo the ties and carefully fold the mask inside out. Hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container reserved for washing the cloth mask.
Wash your hands thoroughly and dry before doing anything else.
Wash cloth masks with warm soapy water and iron when dry.
You must have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use.
Masks should be washed with soap and hot water‚ rinsed thoroughly and ironed.

By: Alex Patrick – TimesLIVE

Source: ARENA Holdings.

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