WasteAid safety guidance for waste collectors and communities in low-income countries

This advice has been developed to help WasteAid partners and other communities deal with waste in a way that is safe and helps prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

It has been developed with the help of specialists from ISSL, Open University and Barefoot College.


Working with waste? COVID-19 Manage the Risks


Coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19. It is very contagious and can seriously harm your health or cause death.


The virus is passed from one person to another through sneezing or coughing.


Tiny drops containing the virus from a sneeze or cough can remain on surfaces even after the ill person is no longer near. This means that things you touch could carry the virus.





1. Symptoms: acute onset of fever, dry cough, difficulty in breathing. If you feel ill, stay home and phone a doctor.


2. Self-isolate for 2 weeks if you have been in contact with an infected person.


3. Avoid personal contact. Try to stay 2 metres from other people. No handshakes, fist bumps or elbow bumps.


4. Soap kills the virus. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer. See the guide: How to make soap using waste oil.


5. Hand sanitiser must be at least 70% alcohol. Any less will be ineffective. It is always better to use soap if you can. See the guide: How to make hand sanitiser.


6. Do not touch your face. Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Avoid sharing a bowl of food with other people.


7. Face masks do not stop you catching the virus and could even make you more likely to. It is better to practice social distancing. If you are collecting waste, keep your distance from residents and other waste workers.


8. Disinfect personal items that could be carrying the virus. It can stay alive on surfaces for days. Clean work areas with disinfectant and avoid sharing phones and other gadgets.


9. Store waste tissues and other items used by an infected person in a closed container at home for 3 days before disposal. See the guide: Respect your waste collection crew.


10. Stay home as much as possible. Maintain social distancing. Keep at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoiding social contact is the best way to stop the virus spreading.



Managing our waste safely

You can catch the coronavirus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.



How long can coronavirus live?

Coronavirus can stay alive on droplets in the air for several hours, and on hard surfaces for days.

Reduce your waste as much as possible. Start composting food waste at home.



If you take your waste to a dumpsite

Use two waste containers in rotation. When one is full, keep all waste at home for three days before taking it to the dumpsite. During this time, collect waste in the second container.

Stay 2 metres (6 feet) from other people on your way to (and at) the dumpsite, and do not touch any other objects at the dumpsite.

Do not allow children to play on the dumpsite.

Wash your hands with soap after touching objects that someone else has handled. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.



If your waste is collected by someone else

Use two waste containers in rotation. When one is full, keep all waste at home for three days before presenting it for collection. During this time, collect waste in the second container.

Wash your hands with soap after handling your waste containers. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.



Advice for waste collectors

Instruct citizens to keep all waste at home for three days before presenting it for collection.

Wear gloves or plastic bags on your hands for handling waste and waste containers.

Wear long sleeves and long pants to keep your skin covered.

Wash your hands with soap after handling waste and waste containers. Do not touch your face.

Stay home if you are sick. Phone a medic if you experience COVID-19 symptoms and follow medical advice.

Respect your waste collection crew

Help stop the spread of coronavirus


These simple steps taken by you will drastically improve the working conditions of the waste collection crew and will reduce their risk to infection.

1. Reduce

Use as much of a fruit or vegetable as you can. Try making soup and stock out of vegetable peels.

Avoid processed and packaged food. This will be better for your health too!

Repurpose discarded plastic items instead of disposing of them. Transfer packaged food into reusable containers and wash and store wrappers (see step 3).

2. Segregate

Form a good habit! Separate your waste:

Compostable – food scraps, egg shells, tea bags, peels, small amounts of paper and card

Recyclable – plastic, glass, metal, electronics, shoes and cloth

Hazardous – sanitary pads, sharps, toxic chemicals like insect repellent, and any tissues used by an ill person

3. Manage at home

Compost – Compost your organic waste outside, in a hole in the ground or in covered (but not sealed) clay or plastic pot. Add 2 parts wet organic waste to 1 part dry waste like shredded paper or egg trays.

Wash and store – Rinse milk packets and other food packaging with soapy water and dry. Now you can safely store the waste for up to 2 weeks without having to dispose it. Compress the waste into a box or carton to save space.

More resources and advice

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