Present Conditions: Bio-medical Waste Disposal

Biomedical waste poses various health and environmental hazards. Hence, it should be handled with the utmost care and disposed-off safely. Several lacunas exist within the management of biomedical waste in India, and the pandemic posed by the corona virus has made it even tougher. The sudden outbreak of the corona virus led to an exponential rise in the quantity of biomedical waste. Furthermore, the poor infrastructure and lack of human resources have aggravated this example. To combat this serious problem in a timely manner, the government has formulated various standard operating procedures and has amended the existing rules and guidelines. Corona viruses have caused large-scale pandemics, namely, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-1 (SARS-Cov-1) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). A new outbreak in this family was added in November-December of 2019 as the novel corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by a large group of highly diverse, enveloped, positive sense, and single-stranded RNA viruses, namely, SARS-CoV-2. Mass sampling with rapid tests, isolation of suspects/patients, use of personal protective measures, social distancing, and life-supporting treatments are known countermeasures to prevent fighting this fatal pandemic. Personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical (and protective) face masks, aprons/gowns, and nitrile gloves are essentially used to protect individuals from exposure to pathogens and contaminants. Traditionally, these protective measures have been predominantly used against pathogens in hospitals. However, COVID-19 has necessitated their usage in domestic isolation and individual protection, leading to a rapid accumulation of potentially infectious waste streams. The entire world is, therefore, facing an unprecedented challenge to fighting COVID-19 together with the myriad COVID-waste.

The composition of waste is greatly influenced by disposable plastic-based personal protective equipment (PPE) and single-use plastics by online shopping for most basic necessities. The use of PPEs and single-use plastics during the pandemic not only increased the quantity of medical waste but also altered the average density of the medical waste. Waste generation amid COVID-19, especially discarded PPEs and single-use plastics, has been an environmental and public health crisis around the world, particularly in countries with developing economies and those in transition. Safe solid waste management is already a matter of major concern in these countries where safe and sustainable practice is scarce and healthcare waste has not been adequately regulated. India is generating tonnes of hospital waste in just a few months, in which Maharastra is the highest contributor because it has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and hence the waste produced.
The bio waste is just dumped in the open at the airports. Perfect norms are not followed. This is leading to a serious increase in COVID-19 cases in India. The used PPE kits are dumped properly by following the norms or the rules and regulations given by the government, hence the increased cases of infection and deaths. These should be dumped after destroying them so that they can not be reused, which can also lead to the transmission of the infection. After that, these things should be perfectly dumped so that no further transmission can occur.

Generally, discarded healthcare waste and other forms of clinical waste are disposed of in a sanitary landfill or incinerated in the form of waste for energy recovery. However, in many developing countries, healthcare waste along with municipal solid waste is dumped in the open or in poorly managed landfills where the movements of waste pickers and livestock such as dogs, goats, and cows are often noticed. A few countries also apply advanced technology to treat their medical waste by steam sterilizing (autoclaving) or chemically disinfecting, but they are exceptional.
We should make some changes in medical waste disposal technology, as in the case of COVID-19. It is important to come up with something new. We normally use decentralization to centralization, from irregular to regular management, and from mostly incineration to non-incineration disposal technologies such as autoclave steam, dry heat, chemical disinfection, or microwave.
The treatment facilities for medical waste should be more automated and based on technology, with a minimum of workers involved. The goals of making automatic processes and the use of minimum workers for infectious waste are what we can do so that there are fewer risks and chances of transmission. Larger capacities of mobile facilities should be maintained, particularly during the pandemic, which may be vital for developing countries where medical waste disposal facilities are limited. The mobile facilities aren’t only convenient for emergency situations, but can also be used as a strategic backup capacity for a state in the future.

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