World Environment Day: Personal Protective Equipment, Masks And Shields- Pandemic Detritus Adds To Waste Crisis

World Environment Day: Personal Protective Equipment, Masks And Shields- Pandemic Detritus Adds To Waste Crisis

According to experts, the movement against plastic has taken a battering in the pandemic with dependency on single-use plastic surging and households contributing to the tonnes of biomedical waste being generated
Coronavirus Outbreak, News, Swasth India, Waste Management
- in Coronavirus Outbreak, News, Swasth India, Waste Management
World Environment Day: Personal Protective Equipment, Masks And Shields- Pandemic Detritus Adds To Waste CrisisWith waste disposal mechanisms less than perfect in India and the ‘plastic footprint' becoming larger by the day, say experts
  • India produced 45,308 tonnes COVID biomedical waste in June 2020-May 2021
  • At individual level, disposing of the waste is our responsibility: Expert
  • Waste management is a behavioural challenge: Expert

New Delhi: The crisis of plastic and biomedical waste is deepening with each Covid case as millions of people use and throw face shields, surgical masks, gloves and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits, once used primarily in hospitals and now an indispensable part of everyday life. The movement against plastic has taken a battering in the pandemic with dependency on single-use plastic surging and households contributing to the tonnes of biomedical waste being generated, worried experts said ahead of World Environment Day on Saturday.

Also Read: Opinion: COVID-19 Has Intensified India’s Plastic And Bio-Medical Waste Crisis

The detritus of the pandemic can be seen everywhere – PPE suits lying discarded behind hospitals and crematoriums, surgical masks and shields being thrown as part of household waste and, of course, sanitiser bottles, gloves and the like found in street corner garbage dumps. With waste disposal mechanisms less than perfect in India and the ‘plastic footprint’ becoming larger by the day, concerns on plastic waste choking the planet and worries about safety are mounting.

There has been a general increase and since it is a crisis situation, we are not thinking of plastic but general prevention. The focus is no longer plastic, so that is a problem. A lot of biomedical waste like masks and PPE kits are also being generated in general homes now. So that is becoming a big problem. These things are finding their way across ecosystems. A lot of these things like masks can be seen on beaches, in coral reefs etc, Ravi Agarwal, founder director of the environmental NGO Toxics Link, told PTI.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India produced 45,308 tonnes of COVID-19 biomedical waste between June 2020 and May 10, 2021, an average daily generation of 132 tonnes of COVID-19 related waste.

This is in addition to the 615 tonnes of biomedical waste a day being produced before COVID-19, amounting to a 17 per cent increase in biomedical waste generation solely because of the pandemic. Besides Covid-related waste from hospitals and homes with positive patients, there is ‘pandemic promoted’ waste from non-Covid homes, including not just protective gear but also plastic packaging with more and more people using home deliveries for essential and non-essential shopping.

Under the existing waste disposal rules, biomedical waste is segregated into four categories — Yellow (highly infectious waste such as human, animal, anatomical, soiled), Red (contaminated recyclable waste generated from disposable items like tubing, bottles tubes, syringes), White (waste sharps, including needles, syringes with fixed needles), and Blue (broken or discarded and contaminated glassware, including medicine vials). Considered potentially infectious, all Covid waste, irrespective of content, is tagged Yellow and incinerated.

Also Read: COVID-19 Waste Management: Disposable Face Masks Can Be Recycled To Make Roads, Says Study

On the face of it, India seems well equipped to handle this extra load of biomedical waste with a national incineration capacity of 800 tonnes a day. But experts said there are other factors that needed to be taken into account.

Like the fact that due to the health crisis, non-Covid biomedical waste generation has also gone up. Secondly, these incinerators are meant for waste that has been segregated. But since Covid waste is not being segregated, the process compromises the efficiency of the incinerators, said Siddharth Singh, deputy programme manager at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Whether emissions from these plants are causing further pollution remains unclear with flawed and non-functional monitoring systems at most plants.

We never know the extent of pollution we are doing… we are converting our land based pollution to water or air pollution. That’s what we end up doing, Mr. Singh told PTI.

Moreover, while national incineration capacity seems sufficient, the waste generation to incineration capacity ratio might not be met for individual states, he said. For instance, Maharashtra reported a 45 per cent increase in the volume of its biomedical waste in May last year, with daily generation going from 62,000 kg per day before COVID to 90,000 kg per day, according to a report by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

To address this problem, the CPCB in July last year in its revised guidelines for Covid waste management said states could approach the Environment Ministry’s ‘Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities’ to deal with their Covid biomedical waste if it could not manage the load.

Also Read: National Green Tribunal Directs CPCB To Ensure Strict Compliance Of Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules

Atin Biswas, programme director, Municipal Solid Waste at CSE, pointed out that while there were mechanisms in place, there was very little data on how many states had actually availed, or even knew of the facility. Notwithstanding the unprecedented health and environment crisis, the experts said there are ways to minimise the damage. To begin with, Mr Singh said individuals needed to consciously reduce their plastic footprint.

We have always looked at the plastic problem in terms of recycling, but the focus should be on how to minimise it. Waste management is to reduce and manage, he said.

For Mr Agarwal, proper disposal is key to coming one step closer towards solving the problem.

At an individual level we have a big responsibility in how we dispose of things. It has to start at the individual level and the government also has to meet the requirement. It’s cooperation between the two. It cannot be done by one or the other. The role of municipalities becomes very critical here because waste collection from Covid homes is supposed to be done separately from general homes, but in many parts of the city (Delhi) that is not happening, he said.

CSE’s Mr Biswas agreed. He said waste management is indeed a “shared responsibility”, and a “comprehensive communication strategy” is important to achieve the goal of reducing plastic pollution.

Waste management is a behavioural challenge. Government has always perceived this to be an engineering problem and has been very poor at communication. Had the government invested in better communication, we would have less waste to deal with in the first place. We do need a very comprehensive strategy and a comprehensive roadmap if we have to achieve certain milestones, he said.

Also Read: India Generated Over 18,000 Tonnes Of COVID-19 Related Bio-medical Waste In 4 Months, Experts Call To Reduce, Reuse And Segregate

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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 (WaterSanitation 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 pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 194 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 19,66,15,634 and 41,98,750 have died; 6,33,31,644 are active cases and 12,90,85,240 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 4:07 am.


3,15,72,344 44,230Cases
4,05,155 1,315Active
3,07,43,972 42,360Recovered
4,23,217 555Deaths
In India, there are 3,15,72,344 confirmed cases including 4,23,217 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,05,155 and 3,07,43,972 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

62,90,156 7,242

81,933 3,980

60,75,888 11,032

1,32,335 190


33,49,365 22,064

1,55,327 5,287

31,77,453 16,649

16,585 128


29,01,247 2,052

23,277 685

28,41,479 1,332

36,491 35

Tamil Nadu

25,55,664 1,859

21,207 314

25,00,434 2,145

34,023 28

Andhra Pradesh

19,62,049 2,107

21,279 280

19,27,438 1,807

13,332 20

Uttar Pradesh

17,08,373 60

784 16

16,84,834 44


West Bengal

15,26,539 766

11,300 70

14,97,116 822

18,123 14


14,36,144 51

554 19

14,10,541 70



10,01,781 130

2,086 140

9,86,175 270



9,74,132 1,615

15,276 489

9,53,088 2,039

5,768 65


9,53,622 17

259 9

9,44,410 26



8,24,829 27

268 6

8,14,485 33


Madhya Pradesh

7,91,796 18

130 0

7,81,153 18



7,69,858 30

712 10

7,59,516 17

9,630 3


7,24,719 46

481 1

7,14,596 42

9,642 3


6,43,716 623

9,188 126

6,30,732 746

3,796 3


5,99,005 58

553 6

5,82,162 60

16,290 4


5,64,030 1,299

14,114 385

5,44,695 1,664

5,221 20


3,47,105 56

259 22

3,41,720 34



3,41,982 48

669 3

3,33,952 51


Jammu And Kashmir

3,21,207 181

1,144 5

3,15,686 175

4,377 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,05,728 229

1,098 145

2,01,110 84



1,70,900 90

1,077 5

1,66,679 93

3,144 2


1,20,725 98

972 49

1,17,961 49



96,824 1,000

10,895 27

84,408 1,016

1,521 11


78,059 271

3,640 221

73,665 488

754 4


63,745 731

5,750 294

56,933 423

1,062 14


61,948 5

37 1

61,102 4


Arunachal Pradesh

47,477 335

4,252 49

43,000 383

225 1


37,171 764

11,862 252

25,168 511

141 1


27,653 67

1,299 51

25,798 114

556 4


26,132 276

3,297 180

22,498 92

337 4


20,324 4

60 4

20,057 8


Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,643 1

36 5

10,603 6



10,162 7

70 6

10,042 13


Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,534 3

10 3



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