What are Lateral Flow Test Kits?
“Lateral flow” or “rapid” test kits are a popular way for carrying out quick on-site tests that indicate whether COVID-19 antigens are present. You can get a result within 15 minutes without having to send the kit off to a lab.
These kits are ideal for mass testing of people in the healthy population to capture the possibility of the virus before they enter an enclosed environment. This is particularly effective for places like schools, nurseries, nursing homes and healthcare premises to protect younger and vulnerable people and reduce the risk of the virus spreading. We have seen these become commonplace among friends and workplaces, and even events for allowing large groups to return to somewhat normal life.
While the rules for self-isolation have changed, and it is no longer legally required to isolate with the virus, lateral flow tests may continue to be relevant for years to come.
How Do Lateral Flow Test Kits Work?
- A swab sample is taken from the nose and/or mouth.
- The swab is then mixed with a buffer solution which can release and break up virus fragments.
- Some of the solution is then dropped onto the Lateral Flow Device and any solution containing virus fragments is drawn down onto an absorbent strip.
- Virus fragments will move along the strip to reach a set of labelled antibodies. Once virus fragments and antibodies bind, they enter a “test zone”.
- After about 5 minutes, a coloured line will appear in the “control zone”, which indicates that the test has worked.
- If a coloured band also appears in the “test zone” then this means the test is positive and the virus is present.
If the result is positive, the person no longer needs a PCR test to check if the virus is present in their system. This advice has changed in recent months. You also no longer need to isolate upon a positive test, although it is advised that you do so. It is just the legal basis for isolation has been removed.
How Should You Dispose of Lateral Flow Test Kits?
The following guidance has been relevant and updated as of January 25th 2022. We are continually monitoring the GOV.UK website and will update if/when things change further.
For the actual device and included implements, you need to dispose of this using a clear bag that is secure from contamination. The rules on disposal are currently that you can include this in your current/normal general waste disposal service. While no specific waste service is required, we advise that you ensure each test is secured in a separate bag to avoid contamination and further sickness to other staff.
It is also important to separate all kit into general waste and recyclable waste. The boxes and paper can of course be recycled and should be done so.
How Should You Dispose of Testing PPE?
In most cases, PPE is not considered offensive. For most types of PPE, especially that used in every day business and life, it can be disposed of in your normal waste collection service. Yet it’s important to remember one thing: PPE is not recyclable, so must be disposed of with your general waste for general waste collection.
If you suspect your PPE has come into contact with the COVID virus, the advice is slightly different. Healthcare workplaces like nursing homes may be tempted to throw PPE in with one of their existing clinical waste streams, like hazardous waste bins, but that would be incorrect. Here is how to dispose of PPE that may have been in contact with the virus:
- Place the PPE in a plastic bag and tie in a knot so it is isolated.
- Double bag the waste – this gives it an added level of protection.
- Keep the bag safe and secure for 72 hours. This period will allow any contaminants to die away.
- Now you can place this waste in the general waste bin.
How Should You Dispose of Test Kit Packaging?
As long as the packaging hasn’t come into contact with the chemical solution, it can be disposed of as normal. Make sure to recycle cardboard or plastic packaging and put unrecyclables in your general waste bin.
How Do You Know Your Waste Disposal is Compliant?
Here are the two things you need to look out for:
- A licensed waste carrier: if the person coming to collect your waste isn’t a “licensed waste carrier”, then they aren’t legit. They’re transporting waste illegally, and you could get into big trouble for handing your waste over to them.
- Waste transfer notes: these are your evidence that you’ve handed waste over to a licensed carrier. Get a transfer note with every collection – it should detail the amount and nature of your waste – then you can rest easy knowing you’ve got proof of compliance.
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