Face Masks, Gloves, Medical & Cleaning Waste

Face Masks, Latex or Nitrile Gloves and Other Household Medical Waste

Our new normal during the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused society to take up more rigorous hygiene regimens. Unfortunately, personal protective equipment like masks and gloves quickly become contaminated and they shouldn't be tossed carelessly - especially not littered in parking lots, where they are destined to end up harming the environment. Because the pathogen causing COVID-19 can survive for hours or even days on different surfaces, observing appropriate disposal protocol is crucial. So, here are some recommendations, which are both safer for public health and better for our planet, on what to do with used gloves, masks, disinfectants, wipes, paper towels, and more.

  • Place all used disposable gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a lined trash can. Wash hands afterward.
  • Use gloves when removing garbage bags, and handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands afterward.
  • Needles, ie: for diabetic insulin, must be put in a non-puncturable container such as a glass jar and can be placed in the trash.

Disinfectants, Cleaning Supplies and Hand Sanitizer

Household cleaning products and hand sanitizers are being used much more than usual. So what should you do with all of the packaging? Packaging can be appropriately discarded in either recycle bins or trash cans, depending on the labels. As for sponges and scouring pads, those should be thrown in the trash.


Despite marketing's ploy to pass off the ever-popular wipe as 'flushable,' it isn't. Many municipal plumbing systems were not designed to handle flushed wipes. Baby wipes, cosmetic wipes, bathroom cleaning wipes, and moist toilet tissues are not recyclable and are not flushable, either, even though some labels say they are. They should always be placed in your rubbish bin.

Paper Towels and Other Paper Products

Many paper products are labeled as 'made from recycled materials.' Accordingly, many consumers believe paper towels and napkins can be chucked into recycling bins. This is not correct. Contaminants like food or spilled liquids will ruin a batch of paper recycling. Paper towels are absorbed and easily become contaminated with non-recyclable materials. If you used paper towels with chemical cleaners or if they are contaminated with grease or liquids, they should go into the trash. If you are sick, the trash can is again the best place for used paper products

Staying Up to Date

Download the Recycle Coach app to stay informed on the proper disposal of items that could harbor viral germs. It will also inform you of any recycling program schedule changes. Find it in the Apple iTunes Store or Google Play Store. You can also learn more about how to dispose of household medical waste by visiting the Inhabitat website.