During each stage of the lockdown, one thing remains constant - your household will produce waste. And to ensure clean and healthy environments during this pandemic, all waste will need to be removed.
It is for this reason that the South African government-designated waste collection an essential service as part of regulations 26(2)(b) and 28(4), as declared under the Disaster Management Act specifically to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
But the government can’t manage this alone. Everyone should take personal responsibility for the responsible disposal of their waste and for preventing the spread of Covid-19, supported by existing government structures.
This is in line with requests that some municipalities have made to their local communities that bins be sanitised, both when they are put out for collection, and when they are brought in again. The rationale behind this is simply that waste collectors touch thousands of bins in a day’s collection, meaning that they are at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 from the multiple touchpoints that they encounter, and that if they have the virus, they can pass it on to many households.
To disinfect your bin, you can use a regular hand sanitiser - 70% alcohol is recommended for Covid-19, or you can use a household bleach solution. The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that bleach should be used at a concentration of at least 5% to 6%, with a contact time of at least one minute, and allowing proper ventilation during and after application.
These waste streams are not only isolated to the medical field in hospitals or clinics but also to persons who may be recovering at home. If you have the slightest suspicion that you may have the virus or feeling under the weather, it is advisable to double bag your waste and take extra care to sanitise your bins when you are disposing of it.
This will be in line with tight protocols for ensuring that infected items do not come into contact with waste workers or the public before being incinerated.
Countries across the world have reported that lockdown has seen a rise in illegal dumping of waste, as people use this enforced time indoors to undertake clear-outs. Dumping is a major problem in South Africa generally but with the lockdown, this has become prevalent with garden refuse and DIY waste - as people at home have become very industrious about home maintenance during this time. Most municipalities will not collect garden refuse, rubble or other DIY by-products, so residents have had to find their own solution.
The public is also urged to avoid illegal dumping of materials, now during the Covid-19 crisis more than ever, as improper disposal of waste encourages disease and attracts vermin, as well as obscuring roads and walkways, which could hamper access by emergency personnel. And let us not forget this comes with a hefty fine if caught.