- Contaminated masks and gloves pose threat to the waste pickers: Experts
- CPCB directs to cut the masks, gloves before disposing of to prevent reuse
- CPCB urges shops, offices to dispose of PPE waste of public as per new rule
New Delhi: In a bid to reduce the fast-spiralling volume of biomedical waste generated during the coronavirus pandemic across the country, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has released new guidelines on the disposal of COVID-19 waste generated by households. The pollution watchdog has directed that masks and gloves used by people other than COVID-19 patients, whether infected or not, should be cut and kept in paper bags for a minimum of 72 hours before discarding it.
CPCB has also directed commercial establishments like malls and offices to follow the same procedure with discarded medical waste from the general public. The CPCB guidelines said,
Discarded PPEs (Personal Protective Equipments) from the general public at commercial establishments, shopping malls, institutions, and offices should be stored in a separate bin for 3 days, thereafter, disposed of as dry general solid waste after cutting or shredding. Waste masks and gloves in general households should be kept in paper bags for a minimum of 72 hours prior to disposal of the same as dry general solid waste after cutting the same to prevent reuse.
Earlier in April, while expressing concerns about the issue of gaps in compliance of the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 which are applicable to the disposal of the bio-medical waste generated from handling the pandemic, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), in its ruling, called for storing of masks for 72 hours and cut it to prevent reuse.
According to Priti Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link, a group of environmental activists working for environmental justice and freedom from toxins, CPCB has mandated destroying the gloves and masks by cutting those before throwing away prior to prevent reuse. She said,
We have been working on raising awareness about COVID-19 waste in various parts of Delhi. CPCB’s guidelines directing cutting of masks and gloves are welcoming. This is because there have been incidences of people in slum areas of Old Delhi selling the used masks and gloves at cheap prices. Each person must dispose of the COVID waste they generate on a daily basis in a more cautious and scientific way and prevent this waste from reaching the dumping yards. Contaminated masks and gloves are hazardous and pose serious health threat to the waste pickers who mostly deal with the waste with bare hands.
She added that in the past 4-5 months, there has been a surge in the domestic dry waste and hazardous waste generation. She further said that the waste related to COVID-19 will be growing even further in the coming days as states are opening up, more people are coming out in public which means that they will be using more masks and gloves.
There is a lack of data on the amount of domestic hazardous waste generation but municipal bodies across the country are observing a surge in the waste and the Bio-Medical Waste Treatment plants are getting over-burdened, according to Ms. Mahesh.
Highlighting the need of raising awareness on the safe disposal of PPE (Personal Protective Equipments) Swati Singh Sambyal, a municipal solid waste expert, based in New Delhi said,
While there is a lot of messaging on using masks while stepping out, making masks at home but still a lot needs to be done for building awareness among people on proper disposal of these protective gears so that these don’t end up as litter on streets or in landfills.
She further said that as per an estimate, domestic hazardous waste comprise almost 1 per cent of the total municipal solid waste collected by the civic bodies across various major cities in the country like Delhi, Mumbai. However, she also said that the amount of medical waste is only going to increase and that there is a need to track inventories of this waste in order to address it with adequate hazardous waste management infrastructure.
The experts said that as the previous guidelines of CPCB on biomedical waste management during the pandemic targeted hospitals and quarantine centres, there was a demand for norms and better waste management system for the disposal of COVID-19 medical waste at the household and individual level.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.