Minimization of spreading of SARS-CoV-2 via household waste produced by subjects affected by COVID-19 or in quarantine

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Currently available evidence supports that the predominant route of human-to-human transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 is through respiratory droplets. Indirect hands contact with surfaces contaminated by infectious droplets subsequently touching the mouth, nose or eyes seems to be another route of an indirect contact transmission. Persistence of the virus on different surfaces and other materials has been reported in recent studies: SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard. Viable virus was detected up to 72 h after application to different surfaces, although infectivity decay was also observed. This evidence suggests the likelihood that waste generated from patients affected by COVID-19 or subjects in quarantine treated in private houses or in areas different from hospitals and medical centres could be contaminated by SARS-CoV-2. Consequently, waste streams may represent a route for viral spreading being a potential risk also for the operators directly involved in the different phases of waste management. To address this concern, a specific multidisciplinary working group was settled by the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) during the COVID-19 emergency, in order to establish guidelines related to solid waste collection, delivering, withdrawal, transport, treatment and disposal. Temporary stop of waste sorting, instructions for the population on how to package waste, instructions for Companies and operators for the adoption of adequate personal protection equipment (PPE), the use and sanitation of proper vehicles were among the main recommendations provided to the community by publications of freely downloadable reports and infographics in layman language. Incineration, sterilization and properly managed landfills were identified as the facilities to be preferentially adopted for the treatment of this kind of waste, considering the main inactivation strategies of SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. treatment length > 9 days and temperature > 70 °C for more than 5 min).

Original languageEnglish
Article number140803
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2020


  • Contagious routes
  • Disposal
  • Guidelines
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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