Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposal of waste from Lateral Flow Device Testing - FAQs

Answers to commonly asked questions regarding the management of waste arising from the use of Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) in Scotland to test for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

Published:
30 Mar 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposal of waste from Lateral Flow Device Testing - FAQs

Background 

This document sets out answers from Public Health Scotland and SEPA to commonly asked questions regarding the management of waste arising from the use of Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) to test for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. 

The questions and answers set out below have informed the development of the SEPA guidance, which is reflected in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) documents provided to those undertaking LFD testing. This document is relevant to the management of the waste from the LFD testing process in Scotland. 

Working to reduce risk in any role that involves handling waste is a routine, but important part of health and safety considerations. This is because it is recognised that, unless effective measures are in place, staff who have direct contact with waste materials e.g. the presence of items such as nappies, animal excrement, discarded needles etc. are potentially at risk. 

Any risks to health are minimised through the use of effective measures, policies and procedures, as required by Health and Safety regulation which safeguard the health of people in the workplace. These measures include the provision of appropriate hygiene facilities, training, personal protective equipment, and reporting systems and procedures to manage suspected exposures.

Do wastes from testing with lateral flow devices need to be double bagged and stored for 72 hours?

No, waste from lateral flow device testing is not considered infectious waste and therefore does not need to be double bagged and stored for 72 hours even in the event of a positive test, including testing undertaken at home. 

Do wastes from testing with lateral flow devices pose an increased risk to health compared to other wastes?

No, wastes from testing with lateral flow devices pose no greater risk than any other similar waste, including personal hygiene waste, in the municipal waste stream.

What is the chance of catching Covid-19 from handling and processing wastes from testing with lateral flow devices, including compaction and manual and mechanical (e.g. shredding) sorting of this waste? 

The normal handling of municipal wastes containing waste from lateral flow device testing creates no additional risk from the COVID-19 virus when compared to wastes from other respiratory viruses (or bacteria) seen frequently throughout the year. This includes the cleaning and emptying of bins by facilities managers or others working at the location LFD tests are taken.

Similarly, there is no additional risk from the COVID-19 virus when compared to wastes from other respiratory viruses (or bacteria) when wastes from testing with lateral flow devices are:

  • crushed, compacted (in a refuse collection vehicle, or skip), sorted in a trommel screen, shredded, or otherwise mechanically handled and managed
  • managed through picking lines if LFD wastes come through a material recovery facility (MRF) or in other locations where there is manual sorting of wastes

The information leaflet for my lateral flow device test states this is biohazardous waste. Is that correct?

We are aware that the information leaflets (IFU) for some lateral flow device test kits state that test for SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, state that the used test should be discarded as biohazardous waste. Using WM3 (Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste) the used test kits have been assessed as non-hazardous waste.

Wastes from testing with lateral flow devices should be disposed of in the residual (‘black bag’) waste stream.

Can you recycle LFD wastes?

The external packaging of LFD testing kits should, in agreement with your waste contractor, be recycled.

The LFD test itself (swab, cartridge/device) is not recyclable and should be disposed of in your residual (‘black bag’) waste bin.

Any disposable equipment such as face coverings, gloves, or aprons worn during the LFD testing process, either by those undertaking the test or those supervising others taking LFD tests, should also be disposed of in your residual (‘black bag’) waste bins.

Can LFD wastes be disposed of at landfill? 

Wherever possible the management of waste should follow the waste hierarchy. It is therefore preferable that, as LFD testing kit waste is not recyclable, where possible this waste should be sent to incineration with recovery for energy. If this is not possible, either due to the availability of local facilities (considering the proximity principle) or due to contractual reasons, then LFD wastes can be incinerated without recovery for energy or disposed of in landfill if authorised by the permit for that facility.

Why does the SEPA guidance suggest that LFD wastes from Asymptomatic Mass Testing sites be treated differently to similar waste from other settings?

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011 place a duty on all persons who produce, keep or manage waste, including Local Authorities, to take all reasonable steps to apply the waste hierarchy. 

It is therefore preferable that, as LFD testing kit waste is not recyclable, where possible this waste should be disposed of via Energy from Waste (EfW).

Sites established for the sole purpose of LFD testing are likely to produce less residual waste than sites where testing is an auxiliary activity – e.g. schools and workplaces. LFD wastes arising from these sites are therefore more likely to be collected as a segregated waste stream and so the preference would be for these wastes to remain segregated and treated in accordance with the waste hierarchy as set out in the SEPA guidance. The SEPA guidance also highlights that where practical constraints prevent testing sites from applying the waste hierarchy, LFD waste can be mixed with the general waste stream and disposed of to landfill.