New Delhi: It is 8.30 AM, 55-year-old Kavita is ready to leave for work. Before stepping out of her house, she opens her bag, takes out a surgical mask and wears it. Despite being well aware of the plastic menace and the government’s suggestion on using reusable fabric mask, Ms. Kavita resorts to a single-use surgical mask. She says, “I find it difficult to breathe in a fabric mask.” The rise in the use of masks, gloves, and other protective equipment at both household and hospital level has led to an increase in bio-medical waste. According to a latest report filed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in the National Green Tribunal, India generates about 101 Metric Tonnes per day (MT/day) of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste. This quantity is in addition to normal bio-medical waste generation of about 609 MT per day.
While on one hand, the nation is struggling to contain the spread of Novel Coronavirus which has infected over 2 million people, on the other hand, the rise in bio-medical waste generation is testing India’s waste management capacity. In an effort to effectively manage the bio-medical waste especially single-use masks, head cover and non-woven PPE (personal protective equipment) kit, a young man from Gujarat has started an initiative to recycle the COVID related bio-medical waste into bricks. Meet 27-year-old Binish Desai, a PhD holder in environmental science and technology, social entrepreneur and Chairman of E.E. Tech Group has been working on waste management for almost two decades now. Starting out at the age of 11, the waste warrior introduced the idea of making bricks using waste. At 23, he turned his idea and dream into a reality and developed P-block bricks made out of waste produced by paper mills. Now at 27, Dr Desai has presented an upgraded version of P-block which contains bio-medical waste.
Talking to NDTV about the idea behind P-block 2.0, Dr Desai said
Face masks are a part of the new normal and they are adding to the plastic pollution. The idea was to manage the waste by the way of recycling and utilise it for something better. We have used three things – masks, head cover and certain types of body suits of PPE which are made from non-woven fabric.
Process Of Converting Bio-medical Waste Into Bricks
Dr Desai said that the process of making P-block 2.0 is similar to the first generation of P-block; the new addition is the bio-medical waste. Explaining the process, he said,
The first step is the collection and disinfection of waste. In line with CPCB’s guidelines, the collected waste in left untouched for 72 hours, followed by disinfection and then we process it. Each brick has 52 per cent of the PPE and face mask waste, 45 per cent of paper waste and 3 per cent of the special binder.
The bricks are made by recycling 7 kgs of waste (bio-medical and paper) per square feet. Mr Desai claims that P-block 2.0 is lighter and stronger than the older version of the recycled bricks and can be used for any kind of construction. Along with this, bricks are eco-friendly, recyclable and low cost – priced at Rs. 2.8 per brick versus a normal brick at Rs. 4.
The innovation has already received required certification backing its strength. Elaborating on the same, Dr Desai said,
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we could not approach national level labs for the certification. But we have got it approved from government accredited lab. For the manufacturing of P-block 2.0, we have the infrastructure and required machinery in place. We will update the existing process and start manufacturing from September.
For the prototype of P-block 2.0, the trials started in April. Dr Desai collected used face masks and head covers from friends and family and made the initial product at in-house lab. However, for large scale production, the team will need a substantial quantity of waste. To ensure safe collection of waste, Mr Desai plans to install ‘Eco Bins’ at public places, hospitals, police stations and other areas with large footfall. Adding to this, Dr Desai said,
We are in the process of obtaining NOC (no objection certificate) and collaborating with government institutions such as CPCB, municipal corporations and others.
Talking to NDTV about the growing problem of plastic waste and bio-medical waste and how Coronavirus pandemic is adding fuel to the fire, Chitra Mukherjee, Head, Advocacy and Policy, at Chintan, a Delhi based NGO, said,
We are in imminent danger of a plastic pandemic with Delhi generating over 11 tonnes of COVID-19 bio-medical waste (BMW) including plastic PPE kits everyday which is 11 per cent of India’s COVID-19 bio-medical waste generation. That’s a massive problem that we are looking at. Soon our Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) plants won’t be able to handle it as we (Delhi) are already at 70 per cent capacity. Toxic bio-medical waste from household, quarantine centres and other places is not being properly segregated owing to lack of awareness or accountability. The government needs to actively promote the use of cloth masks so that consumption of single-use disposable plastic mask is reduced. Rather than focussing on increasing incineration capacities, we need to curb plastic consumption and reduce waste generation.
Though the government is promoting the use of cloth masks, frontline warriors have to rely on medical masks and other protective gear made of plastic. Dr Desai dedicates his innovation to all the Corona warriors fighting war against the virus and says,
Nothing is useless in this world. What can be a waste to you is someone else’s asset.
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.