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Thousands of Tons of COVID-19 Health Care waste Highlight The need for Better waste management

Food and Beverages | Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Tens of thousands of tonnes of extra medical waste from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has put tremendous strain on health care waste management systems around the world.

FREMONT, CA: Global healthcare waste analysis in the context of COVID-19: World Health Organization estimates are based on the approximately 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) bought and provided through a combined UN emergency operation between March 2020 and November 2021 to fulfill countries' urgent COVID-19 response needs. Experts believe that this is just an initial indication of the scale of the COVID-19 waste problem. However, the COVID-19 products procured outside of the initiative, nor waste generated by the public like disposable medical masks are not taken into consideration.

It has also been noticed that over 140 million test kits with the potential to yield 2600 tonnes of non-infectious waste- mainly plastic as well as 731,000 litres of chemical waste have been transported. Meanwhile over eight billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally generating 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles, and safety boxes.

While the UN and nations focused on procuring and ensuring the quality of PPE supplies, the safe and long-term management of COVID-19-related health care waste received less attention and resources. This necessitates the implementation of competent management systems, including instructions for health workers on how to dispose of PPE and health commodities after they have been used.

Currently, 30 percent of healthcare institutions are unable to handle existing waste loads, let alone the increased COVID-19 load. This could expose health professionals to needlestick injuries, burns, and harmful microbes, as well as people living near poorly managed landfills and waste disposal sites to contaminated air, poor water quality, and disease-carrying pests.

The COVID-19 waste challenge, as well as the growing pressure to address environmental sustainability, presents an opportunity to develop systems for reducing and managing health care waste safely and sustainably. Strong national policies and regulations, regular monitoring and reporting, improved responsibility, behaviour change assistance and workforce development, and higher budgets and finance are all examples of how this can be accomplished.

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