Question about disposable masks

I see people throw masks in the garbage receptacles in public spaces. I see masks blowing in the wind and stuck in bushes and trees.

I’ve yet to a public service announcement about where to dispose of masks. Are there guidelines on where masks that have been used by people quarantined at home and test positive, how or where to dispose of medical masks?

People who use syringes have red medical waste containers they use.

What about covid positive Kleenex disposal? So the masks that end up in landfills is that a safe disposal method?

Just wondering, anybody know?

Those containers are for “sharps” and are designed to protect third parties against accidental needle sticks with contaminated needles. This risk doesn’t exist for used masks.

Safe disposal of used masks depends who you talk to.

The Miami Herald says just put 'em in a trash can.

The World Health Organization says pretty much the same thing (PDF).

OTOH, Brazil seems to have gone a bit overboard:

The Brazilian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association (ABES) has issued advice on the correct way to dispose of used masks and gloves. The materials should be placed into two small plastic bags - one inside the other. Tie the bags firmly and throw them away with your general domestic waste. If the materials have been in contact with an infected person, take extra care and write “RISK OF CONTAMINATION” on the bag.

Things like doorknobs are a risk because lots and lots of people handle them, often soon after each other. And they look clean, so people don’t usually wash their hands after handling one.

Toss a mask in the garbage can, and it’s probably never going to be handled by anyone. If anyone does have contact with it, it’s going to be only incidental, probably a day or more later, and by someone who knows it’s dirty, so they’re going to wash their hands afterwards.

Here’s what the FDA says to do with used disposable surgical masks:

Basically, take it off and pitch it into a bin lined with a plastic bag, a bin with a lid, and off it goes to a landfill. Then immediately wash yourself hands.

The virus doesn’t live forever on surfaces, only from hours to days. By the time it ends up at the landfill, it likely doesn’t exist on that mask anymore.

One of our cats gets a shot every third day. I’ve never been advised to use any special sharp container or disposal, probably because there isn’t much risk of a human getting sick from getting stuck by a used cat needle.

I still don’t want anyone getting hurt, so I use a rinsed out mayo jar for a sharp/used mask container and when its full, I put the lid on and toss it in the trash.

Our cat get 2 shots a day. We get a red sharp disposal box from the pharmacy where we get the meds and syringes. When the box is full, we turn it in at the pharmacy and they dispose of it.

Yanno, I wondered about that because our diabetic cat’s syringes came with a sharp container that I turned back in for disposal. That was years ago, so I assumed that things had changed. Maybe its because this cat is getting B12 injections instead of insulin?

Someone who comes across one of those needles in the trash isn’t going to know it was only used to deliver B12 to a cat.

I agree, hence my makeshift sharp container. The injections were ordered by our vet and I purchase the syringes and B12 from our vet. I am assuming that if our vet wanted us to have a sharp container, she would have provided one.

If they are digging around in Jane Doe’s trash they deserve what they get.


Actually, any kind of rigid plastic jar or jug works. Folger’s ground coffee cans, laundry detergent jugs, fabric softener jugs. The plastic jugs that cat litter comes in…shoot, a half gallon or gallon milk or orange jug rinsed out is also good.

Yeah! What she said!!!

I just use whatever wide mouth jar/jug I have handy when I’m replacing a full one. I like the wide openings because I don’t really want to use my fingers to stuff a used mask through a small hole. I mean, I’m going to wash my hands and all, but still…yuck!

I had a job once where we were using dozens of single edge razor blades for scraping and cleaning something. So we’d stuff the used ones in a soda can to dispose of them safely.

I don’t think you’re probably required to have an “official” sharps container. But it may be illegal or against the rules to dispose of any sharps or sharps containers in your household trash.

Typically, there are rules about where you can drop off sharps containers. When I needed one, I could get a free container from either the place I got needles from (vet or pharmacy), or from my local waste handler. I could then either swap the container at the waste handler station, or I could turn it in at the doctor’s/vet’s office. I’ve done this with both human shots and needles used on cats (for subQ fluids). This may also vary by jurisdiction.

That concerned me enough to call our trash company. I’m in the clear. Of course, I live out in the middle of the sticks in freedum country so its not really surprising.

Good on you for checking.

It does. Often by municipality. Your local public health dept should know, as should your pharmacist. Where I live, a rigid plastic container, later sealed with a lid and put in the regular household trash collection is legit. A plastic container out of recycling is ok. A medical facility, lab, doctor’s office has to abide by more stringent disposal rules because they are discarding on a far larger scale.

During my phone call to our Three Guys with a Dump Truck trash company, I was told that they hated loose masks because they blow all over the place and the ear loops always find a way to get hung up on something. She liked that I was stuffing them in a jar and putting the lid on before they went in my trash can.

I’ve been seeing pics on Facebook of birds with mask ear loops wrapped around their necks. So they say to cut the ear loops before throwing them away, just like plastic six-pack rings.