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Biodiversity & Environment

Segregation of Covid-19 Waste

  • 28 Jul 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

  • Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has observed that the segregation of Covid-­19 biomedical waste from general garbage is a must to avoid further contamination adversely affecting public health.

Key Points

  • The directions came on a suo­ motu matter pertaining to scientific disposal of Covid-­19 waste.
  • It observed that segregation of Covid-19 from general waste is a must to avoid additional load on Common Biomedical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities (CBWTFs) incinerators and also to avoid further contamination.
  • In India, Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 deal with waste generated in infectious diseases like Covid-19.
  • Data Analysis:
    • Around 2,907 hospitals, 20,707 quarantine centres, 1,539 sample collection centres and 264 testing laboratories, are involved in the generation of Covid-19 waste.
    • Generation of Covid-19 related biomedical waste in the country is about 101 Metric Tonnes (MT) per day.
    • This quantity is in addition to the normal biomedical waste generation of about 609 MT per day.
    • About 195 CBWTFs are providing the services of collection, transportation and disposal of Covid-19 biomedical waste from hospitals, sample collection centres, testing laboratories, etc.
  • Concerns:
    • The pandemic has presented a challenge in terms of capacity to scientifically dispose of generated waste and a challenge for civic authorities in charge of its collection and disposal.
    • States are not following the CPCB guidelines on Covid-19 related waste.
    • In some states, improper segregation of waste has been reported from Covid-19 facilities and quarantine homes.
      • The non-­segregation of waste results in the incineration of contaminated plastics producing toxic gases and adding to air pollution.
    • The rise in residential biomedical waste and its collection without adhering to safety protocols could also trigger a surge in caseload.
    • Without proper scientific management of such waste, it can potentially affect patients and can affect the concerned workers and professionals.
    • Discarded masks and gloves risk the lives of thousands of sanitation workers who work often without any protection or training to handle such hazardous material.
  • Suggestions:
    • Left-over food, disposable plates, glasses, used masks, tissues, toiletries, etc used by Covid-19 patients should be put in yellow-coloured bags, while used gloves should be put in red bags and sent for sterilisation and recycling at the CBWTFs.
    • Where waste is not going to CBWTF incinerators, deep burial systems should be properly maintained as per protocols taking all due precautions to prevent harm to the environment.
      • A deep burial system involves burying biomedical waste in 2-meter-deep ditches and covering them with a layer of lime and soil.
    • CPCB should take further initiatives like conducting an appropriate programme on Doordarshan, All India Radio and other media platforms to create mass awareness about the correct disposal of Covid-19 biomedical waste.
    • The government should set up recycling plants across the country (as envisaged under the Smart cities project) under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Model.
    • The Centre should form a national protocol combining the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 with the guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers of plastic.
    • The Centre should incentivise start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) offering solutions for Covid-19 waste segregation and treatment.
    • There should be constant and regular monitoring by the central and state PCBs, Health Departments in the states/UTs and by the high-level task team at Central level with further coordination by CPCB.

Source: TH

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