- COVID waste includes discarded syringes, used test kits, vaccine bottles
- Communities close to poorly-managed landfills can be affected: WHO
- ‘140 million test kits can generate 2,600 tonnes of mostly plastic trash’
Geneva: Discarded syringes, used test kits and old vaccine bottles from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, threatening human health and the environment, a World Health Organization report said on Tuesday (February 1). The material, a portion of which could be infectious since coronavirus can survive on surfaces, potentially exposes health workers to burns, needle-stick injuries and disease-causing germs, the report said. Communities close to poorly-managed landfills can also be affected through contaminated air from burning waste, poor water quality or disease-carrying pests, it added.
The report calls for reform and investment including through the reduction in the use of packaging that has caused a rush for plastic and the use of protective gear made from reusable and recyclable materials.
It estimates that some 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE), or the equivalent of the weight of several hundred blue whales, has been ordered via a U.N. portal up until Nov. 2021 – most of which is thought to have ended up as waste.
The report also mentions some 140 million test kits with a potential to generate 2,600 tonnes of mostly plastic trash and enough chemical waste to fill one-third of an Olympic swimming pool.
In addition, it estimates that some 8 billion vaccine doses administered globally have produced an additional 144,000 tonnes of waste in the form of glass vials, syringes, needles, and safety boxes.
The WHO report did not name specific examples of where the most egregious build-ups occurred but referred to challenges such as the limited official waste treatment and disposal in rural India as well as large volumes of faecal sludge from quarantine facilities in Madagascar.
Even before the pandemic, around a third of healthcare facilities were not equipped to handle existing waste loads, the WHO said. That was as high as 60 per cent in poor countries, it said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.