The deadly Coronavirus has created an alarming situation all over the world. For the first time in the history of mankind, we witnessed countries being shut down, people getting stranded and losing jobs at such a humungous scale, a spike in death rates owing to Covid-19, businesses facing the risk of bankruptcy and much more. But, what’s even more surprising is that India which once used to import medical Personal Protective Equipment is now leading the show by becoming a self-sufficient nation in the production of PPE’s. Just within a short span of 60 days, India surpassed all the odds to become the world’s second-largest PPE manufacturers. On the 18th of May, 2020 the Smt. Smriti Irani tweeted India’s success of having achieved per day production capacity of PPE suits amounting to the quantity of 4.5 lac.
With the onset of Corona pandemic, India started using masks, gloves, face shields, robot boots, sanitizers to curb the pace with which positive cases were being reported. As a result, we have generated another source of waste- the Biomedical Waste. Biomedical waste management needs a very critical and accurate approach. This is the most hazardous and potentially contagious waste that can wreak havoc in any settlement. Biomedical waste is any waste that is generated either directly or indirectly during the diagnosis, treatment and immunization of any human being or an animal. Some activities which can be a potent source of biomedical wastes-
- Medicine packages
- Hard-copies of the diagnostic reports
- Human or animal samples/ excretion components
Cities, districts, villages are becoming conscious of the benefits of a hygienic living environment. Although, there is a price to be paid for the same. Urban settlements are under heavy pressure to cop up with the shortfall in the available medical facilities and at the same time gearing up with their waste management system.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC) which seeks to facilitate an environmentally sound and healthy living environment will have a tough time to ensure safe disposal of waste generated amidst such a situation. India is home to 130 crore people. Imagine, the quantum of PPE- waste generated in the households. Let’s assume a fictitious situation that even if 50 per cent of the total existing population excluding those who work in the medical department produce waste of PPE- used masks, face shields, gloves, robot boots, gown, sanitizer packaging and containers. The menace will be encountered when it comes to the disposal of these wastes. Most of this waste will find its way into the municipal waste-collecting vans or trolleys which will eventually dump the same in some landfills or garbage collection area.
From the chart above it is evident that Indi’s biomedical waste disposal and treatment has been increasing rapidly at an average rate of about 3% per annum since 2015 which amounted to 530 metric tons per day in 2018. However, the total biomedical waste generation in the same year was about 550 metric tons. And now to make the situation further worse, we have COVID-19 which will add further weight to this statistic the estimate of which is difficult to estimate because of the highly unpredictable nature of the transmission rate of COVID-19 and public movement.
The common public do not have access to specialized means of biomedical waste disposal. Moreover, our public infrastructure also does not facilitate provisions for the common people to channelize their medical waste for safe disposal. As a result, on one hand, we will be ensuring our protection against Coronavirus on the other we will also be jeopardizing the public safety by dumping the same into municipal waste disposal vans. It is not just corona, it can be any contagious deadly disease- typhoid, tuberculosis, etc. which can find way back into mainstream human society via cows, dogs, pigs, birds, insects, etc. by sticking to their body. Burning these may release highly poisonous gases like- dioxins, oxides of nitrogen and Sulphur, etc. which are both poisonous and as well as greenhouse gases.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India has released its guidelines for disposal of waste related to COVID-19 treatment and abatement. Dedicated collection bins and the addition of more protection layers to waste packages as per the new policy will add weight to the total waste generation. In order to dilute the problem, CPCB mentioned in its guidelines that Urban local bodies should coordinate with the Common Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) to collect such bio-medical wastes from the quarantined houses and other quarantine centres and the same shall be disposed of as per the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016. However, the general waste which does not stand the chance of having been contaminated by any potential coronavirus contagion can be disposed as per the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
This issue of waste disposal can be tackled by adopting the following strategies-
- Minimizing travels and contact with outsiders. Stay at home and you will have lesser demand for the use of PPE.
- Use hand made cloth masks and gloves. It can have multiple layers and the same can be washed regularly to avoid throwing the same after its use.
- Spread awareness regarding the importance of waste management and its disposal. Segregate waste generated at the source.
- Practise yoga and meditation. Do regular exercise to keep the body healthy and minimize its chances to catch any disease.
- Take Ayurvedic preparations- Kaadhaa, to boost immunity, consume more of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Thus, the very basic fundamentals of waste management and a slight vigil from our own self can help curb the menace of this so-called- Corona waste. It is time to help the medical fraternity and their dedication to safeguard the society from this deadly disease.