Coronavirus medical waste management: critical role in preventing spread

Media release

Coronavirus medical waste management: critical role in preventing spread

  • Service providers equipped and trained to handle collection, treatment and disposal of Coronavirus waste
  • Full-body protection suits,  designated trucks and fire escapes to be used
  • Triple-bagging of hospital waste before incineration
  • Hotels, gyms, shopping malls, stadiums and airports encouraged to manage waste responsibly during outbreak

MARCH 6, DURBAN - As South Africa moves to contain the Coronavirus in KwaZulu-Natal stringent management of infectious medical waste is critical to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible pathogen.

High risk medical waste generated from Covid-19 patients includes everything from infectious swabs, bandages, cotton wool buds, linen, gloves and masks to needles, blades, scalpels and possibly anatomical waste like blood and body fluids. Even eating utensils used by an infected patient are treated as hazardous waste.

Licenced waste management companies, who collect, treat and dispose of dangerous medical waste, train and prepare for such events routinely as part of the specialised work they do. Their process for handling infected waste is governed by strict health, environmental and transport legislation. 

Durban-based Compass Medical Waste Services, which manages medical waste for public and private hospitals across South Africa, has the following protocol in place to ensure waste from infected patients is handled effectively from “cradle to grave”.

Standard operating procedure includes:

  • Using specialist full‐body personal protection suits for staff, which include full face masks, gloves (sealed at the wrist), disposable overalls, over-shoe covers and rubber boots
  • Using a designated vehicle to transport this specific waste from the hospital directly to an incinerator, with no stops on the way
  • Using the shortest and safest route – sometimes a fire escape - from the hospital entrance to the isolation ward to collect, avoiding contact with people
  • Triple-bagging all waste, or using sealed boxes, prior to pick up
  • Immediate removal and incineration of personal protective suits and equipment at the incinerator facility along with the infected waste
  • Strict hygiene routine for the driver and assistant once waste offloaded, including washing their hands and forearms up to their elbows with antiseptic detergent and spraying hands with disinfectant hand rub. No touching of their face, hair or exposed skin is permitted until their hands have been washed and sprayed
  • Thorough disinfecting of the vehicle between each collection.

Said Compass Medical Waste Services managing director, Ian du Randt: “The public can be assured that medical waste service providers are equipped and trained to handle the collection, treatment and disposal of the Coronavirus medical waste as needed. Certainly any infectious medical waste that we are responsible for will be treated effectively in the best interests of the patient, the waste generator and the public.”

Du Randt cautioned that it was not only hospitals and medical facilities that had a responsibility to correctly handle high risk waste, particularly during a disease outbreak.

Under the National Environmental Management Act, any generator of waste has to “manage the waste in such a manner that it does not endanger health,” he said.

“This means that over and above healthcare institutions, entities like hotels, gyms, shopping malls, stadiums and ports of entry, should be looking at their obligations and duty of care to their customers and the public at large,” said du Randt.

For further information, please contact Tenley Cummings 

Tel: 083 654 5229

About Compass Medical Waste Services

Established in 1998 and servicing all nine provinces in South Africa, Compass provides a professional medical waste management service specialising in the containment, collection, treatment and disposal of medical waste in an environmentally responsible manner. Customers include the Department of Health, Netcare, Life Healthcare and the National Health Laboratory Service. For more information, visit

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