Free rapid antigen tests for schools at cost to the environment | The Canberra Times

coronavirus, rat tests, rapid antigen test, environment, plastic, waste, covid tests

Boxes of plastic rapid antigen test kits will be distributed to ACT schools over the next few weeks after a decision was announced on Wednesday to continue handing them out for another four weeks. While a survey of parents found 71 per cent wanted the COVID-detection program to continue, there is increasing concern over what will become of the associated rubbish. Mother of two Kristi Clarke said the discussion in her low-waste community was how to take precautions to reduce the transmission of COVID while being waste-conscious. She said an opportunity had been missed to teach parents that some of the kit could be recycled. “If somebody who’s touching these tests is positive, then that’s why they give [us] the little plastic bags, it’s hazardous waste,” she said. “But the large majority are negative, and some of that waste can go into a recycling service rather than just going to landfill.” The cassette, test tube and swab can’t be recycled. The plastic bags can technically be recycled at Coles or Woolworths, but due to the risk of COVID transmission, the instructions say to bag the kit and bin it. The instructions and box the kits come in are fine to be recycled. Ms Clarke said with colds going around schools, her family had been through lots of tests. But with kids and teachers encouraged to test themselves twice weekly, and each test containing 10 grams of plastic destined for landfill, the Clarkes’ contribution is part of a lot bigger problem. Conservation Council ACT Region executive director Helen Oakey said the first challenge with recycling used kits was that they were treated as medical waste. “The other challenge is that it’s combined products,” she said. “If a product is made out of a single plastic, like a milk bottle, it can be recycled. If it’s made out of multiple, like cotton buds, they’re the things which would go to landfill anyway.” READ ALSO: Ms Oakey said soft plastics were a particular threat to the environment because they were only recycled through the REDcycle scheme at the big supermarkets. “We are calling on the government to expand the soft plastic collection in the ACT and expand the processing,” she said. A recommendation of the most recent ACT Waste Feasibility Study was for the establishment of a Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) facility in the territory to convert residual waste into alternative fuels. The ACT government ruled out the development, and is planning a circular economy strategy instead. When the report was released, the Mugga Lane tip was scheduled to reach capacity in 2023. It has since been expanded and will be full within 20 years. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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