Comets provide unique information about the physical and chemical properties of the environment in which the solar system was formed. Understanding how cometary dust and ice evolve under the effect of sunlight is essential for constraining nuclear structure and triggering the mechanism of comet activity. In this paper, we first study the rotational disruption of dust grains lifted by outgassing from comet nuclei by radiative torques (RATs). We find that composite grains could be rapidly disrupted into small fragments by the RAT disruption mechanism. We then study rotational desorption of ice grains by RATs and find that icy grains could be desorbed from large heliocentric distances, beyond the sublimation radius of water at Rsub (H2O) ~ 3 au. We also calculate the production rate of water vapor versus the heliocentric distance of comets due to rotational desorption. Our results could explain the variation of dust properties and the presence of small grains frequently observed from cometary comae. Finally, we suggest that the activity of distant comets could be triggered by rotational disruption of grains and desorption of water-ice grains at large heliocentric distances.