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EMA Develops Guidelines for the Disposal of Used Personal Protective Equipment


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EMA Develops Guidelines for the Disposal of Used Personal Protective Equipment

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Sections 4 and 73 of the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27) and the Zimbabwean Constitution, respectively, jointly provide for a clean environment that is not harmful to human health. 


A clean environment is one that is free from pollutants that in turn have detrimental impacts on the health and wellbeing of the citizens.


Over the years, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has upheld stakeholder participation, and therefore collaborated with various stakeholders towards a common goal of maintaining a clean, safe and healthy environment for the Nation of Zimbabwe.


Nevertheless, 2020 has been a unique year.


The outbreak of the Corona Virus Disease of 2019, popularly known as the COVID-19, which has affected millions and killed hundreds of thousands, has greatly impacted economic and social aspects world over.


The impact of the pandemic on the environment has been traumatic, principally due to the use of disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face shields and masks as well as gloves, by all citizens in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.


This has however introduced a new waste stream in homes and institutions; used PPE, which was previously confined to medical institutions such as clinics, hospitals, surgeries and laboratories.

In medical institutions, this waste stream is treated as hazardous waste, which is disposed of through incineration.


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2000) defines incineration as the controlled burning of substances in an enclosed area thus minimizing air pollution. 


The inclusion of this waste stream in household waste saw the need for the nation of Zimbabwe to be educated on the proper disposal mechanism for used PPE, without which the environment may become littered and the COVID-19 perpetuated.


With this realization, EMA in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) developed guidelines for the proper disposal of used PPE at household and institutional level in an effort to maintain a clean, safe and healthy environment as provided for by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. 


For medical institutions, the purpose of these guidelines is to offer safe practices for handling infectious waste in health facilities in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to healthcare workers, patients and visitors as well as minimizing the risk of injury associated with waste handling.

According to the guidelines, all medical institutions which include private or mission health care facilities as well as designated isolation facilities are advised that all waste generated therein is hazardous and highly infectious and should therefore be segregated and safely disposed of.


The guidelines clearly state that all health care waste produced during the care of COVID 19 patients should be collected safely in designated containers and bags, treated, and then safely disposed of preferably onsite.


For Ports of Entry, Road Block sites, Retail Outlets and Toll Gates, labelled bins and red bin liners specifically for used masks and gloves should be placed at strategic and accessible places.


Pedal-operated waste bins or bins with swinging lids are highly recommended for this purpose.


This waste should be collected daily by agents authorized by the EMA and MOHCC for treatment and disposal.


At household level the recommendation is to wash the used face masks and gloves with soap under running water for 20 seconds alternatively sanitize the used gloves and face masks.


Thereafter, they should be cut into pieces using a scissors to avoid unscrupulous reusing or recycling before being placed in a plastic bag which should be tied off  disposed of in the general waste bin for collection.