Rising medical waste in pandemic threatens health, environment: report

Geneva: The COVID-19 pandemic has generated thousands of tons of additional medical waste, putting enormous pressure on health care waste management systems around the world, as well as threatening human and environmental health. This information has been given in the report presented by WHO. The report urges a dire need to reform waste management, even as the health sector remains under pressure to reduce carbon and the amount of waste sent to landfills.

According to WHO, approximately 87,000 tonnes of PPE kits were procured between March 2020-November 2021, which were shipped through the United Nations Emergency Initiative to support countries’ urgent COVID-19 needs.

Much of this equipment is expected to end up as waste, indicating the scale of the COVID-19 waste problem.

In addition, more than 140 million test kits were shipped, with a capacity to generate 2,600 tons of non-infectious waste (mainly plastic) and 7,31,000 liters of chemical waste (equivalent to a third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool). went.

More than eight billion doses of the vaccine have also been delivered, with an additional 144,000 tonnes of waste produced globally in the form of syringes, needles and safety boxes.

The report said that while countries grapple with the task of ensuring the supply and quality of PPE, less attention and resources are devoted to the safe and sustainable management of COVID-19 related health care waste.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said in a statement, “It is absolutely critical to provide healthcare workers with the right PPE. But it is also important to ensure that it can be used safely without affecting the surrounding environment. “

About 30 percent of health facilities (60 percent in the least developed countries) are not equipped to handle the current waste load.

The report makes recommendations for integrating better, safer and more environmentally sustainable waste practices.

These include environmentally friendly packaging and shipping, using safe and reusable PPE (eg, gloves and medical masks), recyclable or biodegradable materials.

The growing urgency to address the COVID-19 waste challenge and environmental sustainability offers an opportunity to strengthen systems to reduce and manage health care waste safely and sustainably.

“Significant changes at all levels, from the global level to the hospital floor, are the need for climate-smart health care systems in how we manage the health care waste stream,” said WHO health director Maria Neira.

first published:Feb. 1, 2022, 7:33 p.m.



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