A recent news story highlighted how China's next bit COVID-19 challenge is how to deal with all the contaminated trash that comes as a result of dealing with the epidemic.

Clearly China has a lot more to deal with but this is not something other countries wont have to face as well. It also seems to be another case where limited amounts are nothing to really worry about but the potential to overload current capacity seems a real potential. One might think South Korea, Iran and Italy are all standing directly in front of that door.

I have not seen any mention of this aspect of the problem mentioned by WHO, CDC or other official health organizations. Is this a planning gap those countries need to get on paper really soon and something that everyone else needs to account for? (For instance, California just declared a state of emergency. Is disposal part of that emergency planning?)

Are these organization really learning anything or do we keep playing catch-up? If so, why? Wasn't waste disposal a big deal for HIV?

Alternatively, if survival of the virus outside a host is limited, will some simply trash quarantine, with some type of handling (a bit like turning the compote heap over to make it effective) rules, be sufficient?

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Mar 05, 2020


This problem is probably mostly regulatory in nature. This "medical waste" does not suddenly become "normal waste" because there is no longer any viable corona virus present. And medical waste treatment facilities are overloaded. Also (at least in Germany, where I live) waste is not "presumed diseased". Here bio-contaminated waste is usually autoclaved before entering the normal waste stream or gets treated by a specialized company. I do not know the specific procedures in China though.

1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:15 AM

I don't understand why regular trash handling won't work. Trash is already treated as presumed-diseased for other reasons.