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
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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
Highlights
  • 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

World

17,91,56,496Cases
5,81,68,051Active
11,71,06,212Recovered
38,82,233Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,91,56,496 and 38,82,233 have died; 5,81,68,051 are active cases and 11,71,06,212 have recovered as on June 23, 2021 at 3:45 am.

India

3,00,28,709 50,848Cases
6,43,19419,327Active
2,89,94,855 68,817Recovered
3,90,660 1,358Deaths
In India, there are 3,00,28,709 confirmed cases including 3,90,660 deaths. The number of active cases is 6,43,194 and 2,89,94,855 have recovered as on June 23, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

59,87,521 8,470

1,26,468 1,055

57,42,258 9,043

1,18,795 482

Kerala

28,29,460 12,617

1,00,881 746

27,16,284 11,730

12,295 141

Karnataka

28,15,029 3,709

1,18,615 4,541

26,62,250 8,111

34,164 139

Tamil Nadu

24,36,819 6,895

56,886 4,443

23,48,353 11,144

31,580 194

Andhra Pradesh

18,57,352 4,169

53,880 4,260

17,91,056 8,376

12,416 53

Uttar Pradesh

17,04,678 202

3,910 253

16,78,486 397

22,282 58

West Bengal

14,85,438 1,852

22,508 232

14,45,493 2,037

17,437 47

Delhi

14,32,778 397

1,918 78

14,05,927 467

24,933 8

Chhattisgarh

9,91,653 482

8,007 557

9,70,244 1,032

13,402 7

Rajasthan

9,51,393 137

2,388 303

9,40,101 437

8,904 3

Odisha

8,83,490 2,957

30,859 1,240

8,48,960 4,159

3,671 38

Gujarat

8,22,620 135

5,159 480

8,07,424 612

10,037 3

Madhya Pradesh

7,89,415 65

1,707 273

7,78,902 318

8,806 20

Haryana

7,67,726 146

2,200 137

7,56,231 263

9,295 20

Bihar

7,20,207 268

2,811 206

7,07,833 468

9,563 6

Telangana

6,15,574 1,175

16,640 606

5,95,348 1,771

3,586 10

Punjab

5,93,063 405

5,968 509

5,71,207 880

15,888 34

Assam

4,88,179 2,869

32,975 350

4,50,924 2,482

4,280 37

Jharkhand

3,44,775 110

1,417 72

3,38,256 180

5,102 2

Uttarakhand

3,38,978 171

2,896 68

3,29,030 231

7,052 8

Jammu And Kashmir

3,12,584 428

7,181 578

3,01,134 999

4,269 7

Himachal Pradesh

2,00,791 188

2,276 132

1,95,062 315

3,453 5

Goa

1,64,957 303

2,920 146

1,59,029 438

3,008 11

Puducherry

1,15,364 284

3,214 150

1,10,423 433

1,727 1

Manipur

64,993 575

9,214 84

54,714 649

1,065 10

Tripura

63,140 395

3,747 163

58,735 554

658 4

Chandigarh

61,467 23

278 33

60,383 56

806

Meghalaya

45,976 421

4,273 77

40,915 341

788 3

Arunachal Pradesh

33,664 289

2,548 9

30,956 279

160 1

Nagaland

24,438 64

1,757 87

22,204 149

477 2

Ladakh

19,871 33

360 5

19,309 38

202

Sikkim

19,458 137

2,430 18

16,732 152

296 3

Mizoram

18,409 430

4,424 197

13,900 233

85

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,520 4

61 1

10,455 3

4

Lakshadweep

9,504 33

315 4

9,142 36

47 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,425 10

103 6

7,195 4

127

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