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Yearender 2020: Stepping Into 2021 With Bio-medical Waste Management Lessons From COVID-19 Pandemic

In the last six months, between June to November, India produced 28,468.85 tonnes of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste, as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

Yearender 2020: Stepping Into 2021 With Bio-medical Waste Management Lessons From COVID-19 Pandemic

New Delhi: India’s fight against its piles of garbage intensified in 2020, a year that will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Coronavirus outbreak still raging, one of the other major fallouts has been the surge in hazardous bio-medical waste. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the average quantity of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste generation was about 162 tonnes per day (TPD) for the month of November 2020. This quantity is in addition to the regular bio-medical waste generation of about 610 TPD per day (approximately). In the last six months, between June to November, India produced 28,468.85 tonnes of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste. As the year 2020 comes to an end, we look back at the lessons to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic in the field of waste management and the strategies that need to be adopted in 2021 as the pandemic continues.

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

COVID-19 Related Bio-medical Waste And Its Disposal

Any waste generated during the diagnosis, treatment, immunisation, research pertaining thereto, production or testing of biologicals is called bio-medical waste. In view of COVID-19, bio-medical waste can be personal protective equipment (PPE) including goggles, face shield; mask; gloves; laboratory waste. As per the Guidelines for Quarantine Facility COVID-19 issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, bio-medical waste is to be bifurcated in four streams:

1. Eye protection goggles, plastic vials, recyclable materials like pens, plastic water bottles and bed sheets are to be kept in red bins. The collected waste is to be disinfected through autoclave or microwave or hydroclave and sent for recycling.

2. Sharp waste including metals is to be discarded in white bins. For the treatment, sterilisation is to be followed by shredding or container mutilation or encapsulation.

3. Glassware, tube light, CFL bulbs, LED used in quarantine facility are to be kept separately in a cardboard box marked blue. The waste is to be disinfected and sent for recycling.

4. Used personal protective equipment (PPE), mask, gloves, shoe covers, head covers, disposable bed sheets, and PPE with spill is to be discarded in a yellow bin and incinerated or buried in deep pits.

Guidelines for disposal of COVID-19 waste also applies to COVID-19 patients quarantining at home. Used masks, gloves, tissues, swabs contaminated with blood or body fluids of COVID-19 patients, including used syringes, medicines, are to be treated as bio-medical waste and collected in a yellow bag provided by the urban local body (ULB).

Masks and gloves used by persons other than COVID-19 patients should be cut and kept in paper bags for a minimum of 72 hours prior to disposal.

Also Read: COVID-19 Waste: CPCB’s New Guidelines Advise Households To Cut And Store Waste Masks, Gloves For 3 Days Before Disposing Of

COVID-19 Pandemic And The Challenge Of Bio-medical Waste Management

Talking to NDTV about the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the management of bio-medical waste, Swati Sambyal, a Delhi-based waste management expert, asserted there has been an increase in the levels of bio-medical waste generation, based on the CPCB reports. She added,

Segregation is a major concern and lack of systems that support segregation is another. Secondly, awareness on effective waste management at the household level is extremely poor; people have been giving a lot of their mixed household waste in the designated yellow bag meant for COVID-19 waste. Cities that have heavily centralised waste management systems have more challenges over cities with decentralised resource management systems.

Ms Sambyal further called for implementation of a third bin for hazardous waste; effective segregated collection of municipal solid waste and bio-medical waste at the household level. Segregation of waste is crucial as it reduces the amount of hazardous waste generated from quarantine homes to be dealt as bio-medical waste.

Further elaborating on the issues pertaining to bio-medical waste management, Sourabh Manuja, Fellow, Centre for Waste Management, Environment & Waste Management Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), listed two major points. He said,

The focus of waste management strategies should be on waste reduction but we don’t see much implementation of models that showcase waste reduction from medical institutions. At a city level, domestic hazardous waste management and bio-medical waste management are equally important. Cities lack implementation of appropriate strategies to collect and manage this hazardous waste, stringent monitoring, review and verifications are required.

Also Read: Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes Broken System Of Bio-medical Waste Management; Experts Discuss The Issue And Solutions

Learnings From COVID-19

The roadblocks in the way of efficient bio-medical waste management have brought in some lessons for both the individuals and government. Sharing the key lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught, Ms Sambyal said,

Firstly, apart from hospitals and clinics, households’ bio-medical waste management is the need of the hour and appropriate systems need to be created to support this with at least a two to three year action plan. Secondly, in smaller towns, there are not sufficient bio-medical waste management facilities, need to upscale the same. Thirdly, masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) are a new normal, however, usage of single-use masks and other PPE equipment should be restricted to frontline staff.

Ms Sambyal noted that many Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBWTFs), especially in cities with high COVID-19 case load are running over capacity and have no space to take in more waste. This means, India needs to focus on capacity building and upgrading existing facilities.

As per the latest CPCB report for November, 2020, around 198 CBWTFs are involved in the treatment and disposal of COVID-19 biomedical waste across the country. But, some states are generating a huge amount of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste like Kerala generated 600 tonnes in November 2020 and has only one CBWTF the capacity of which is not adequate, suggests CPCB report.

In addition to this, Mr Manuja stressed on awareness and said,

Cities need appropriate training and capacity building along with the infrastructure to manage the bio-medical waste they generate, including domestic hazardous waste.

Stepping Into 2021 With A Hope For Efficient Bio-medical Waste Management

With the start of 2021, India’s COVID-19 vaccination programme that focusses at 30 crore people in phase 1 will begin which will result in increased bio-medical waste in the form of vaccination vials. Mr Manuja alerted that the challenge will come up in rural areas and said,

We need appropriate guidance, training and monitoring for our practitioners to handle the discarded bottles and syringes, which may be generated in a phased manner.

Also Read: Waste Management During Coronavirus Pandemic: 27-year-old Recycles Bio-medical Waste Into Eco-friendly Bricks

Both Ms Sambyal and Mr Manuja said that India has a robust policy for bio-medical waste management but its implementation is always a challenging aspect. Contrary to this, Dr Lata Ghanshamnani, Ophthalmologist and co-founder of NGO RNisarg Foundation, which looks in education and awareness and management of all kinds of waste, did suggest a couple of policy level changes. Dr Ghanshamnani suggested waste audit for every healthcare establishment. She added,

Waste audit should be linked to patient footfalls and surgical and inpatient records. Acknowledge and encourage establishments practising greener and sustainable policies. Bring in extended producer responsibility (EPR), a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility for the collection and treatment of post-consumer products, in pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry at the earliest.

Mr Manuja suggested better coordination between governments and added,

State and local governments will have to work cohesively with centre to manage bio-medical waste generated (along with a strong political will). For policies to be implemented by urban local bodies, it requires clear local bye laws, with penal mechanism; prior training and capacity building of its employees; involvement of stakeholders while formulating and implementing policies at the city level.

Talking about what more the government can do to strengthen waste management, Mr Manuja said,

The government will also have to make sure that bio-medical waste management capacities at levels of each district are sufficient. Entrepreneurs should be promoted to invest under public-private-partnership and come up with more treatment units, meeting environmental norms.

As per the experts, policies are in place, but they need to be enforced strictly and the gaps need to be filled. While signing off, Dr Ghanshamnani, said,

Healthy introspection is the need of the hour. Ignoring the past and not taking lessons from it will be the biggest mistake. Hence, grassroot level study into the subject is currently the most essential step.

Also Read: COVID-19: Delhi’s Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facilities Under Pressure Due To Increased Load

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 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,81,49,892 and 46,85,562 have died; 19,07,93,163 are active cases and 3,26,71,167 have recovered as on September 19, 2021 at 3:52 am.


3,34,48,163 30,773Cases
3,26,71,167 38,945Recovered
4,44,838 309Deaths
In India, there are 3,34,48,163 confirmed cases including 4,44,838 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,32,158 and 3,26,71,167 have recovered as on September 19, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,18,502 3,391

51,472 530

63,28,561 3,841

1,38,469 80


44,88,813 19,325

1,81,411 8,084

42,83,963 27,266

23,439 143


29,67,083 889

15,783 205

29,13,713 1,080

37,587 14

Tamil Nadu

26,43,683 1,653

16,893 50

25,91,480 1,581

35,310 22

Andhra Pradesh

20,37,353 1,174

14,653 144

20,08,639 1,309

14,061 9

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,652 9

193 2

16,86,572 7


West Bengal

15,61,014 728

7,967 41

15,34,406 757

18,641 12


14,38,469 41

404 3

14,12,980 44



10,19,621 695

5,929 689


8,128 6


10,05,042 28

332 14

9,91,150 42



9,54,246 8

102 2

9,45,190 10



8,25,715 13

143 11

8,15,490 24


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,386 6

97 12

7,81,772 18



7,70,711 6

323 0

7,60,580 6



7,25,881 10

65 0

7,16,158 10



6,63,281 255

5,148 75

6,54,230 329

3,903 1


6,01,236 30

316 7

5,84,453 23



5,97,709 365

5,063 102

5,86,856 465

5,790 2


3,48,114 3

74 20

3,42,907 23



3,43,376 21

282 0

3,35,704 20

7,390 1

Jammu And Kashmir

3,27,773 152

1,479 39

3,21,878 113


Himachal Pradesh

2,16,813 174

1,610 30

2,11,554 142

3,649 2


1,75,414 123

771 40

1,71,351 81

3,292 2


1,25,384 128

924 5

1,22,631 122

1,829 1


1,18,261 140

2,180 92

1,14,251 228

1,830 4


83,840 31

367 37

82,665 67

808 1


79,325 119

1,876 76

76,075 192

1,374 3


79,171 1,104

14,456 161

64,456 938

259 5


65,176 4

35 1

64,323 3


Arunachal Pradesh

54,060 32

461 44

53,328 76



30,893 54

728 28

29,786 82



30,840 60

491 20

29,696 39

653 1



109 0



Dadra And Nagar Haveli


1 4

10,665 4




6 1

10,299 1


Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,598 2

14 0

7,455 2


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