Disposal of medical waste challenge during Covid-19 pandemic

Bio-medical and PPE kit waste disposal

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Medical waste
Photo - Ctv via internet

As informed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), disposal of bio-medical waste, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit worn by healthcare professionals as well as the general public, became a challenge during the on-going Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Public Health’s being a state subject, information relating to increasing in Covid-19 cases among individuals employed in garbage collection and disposal, due to mismanagement in the disposal of bio-medical waste including PPE kit, and others is not centrally maintained, according to the press statement.

As per Bio-medical Waste Management (BMWM) Rule, 2016, waste generated from healthcare facilities is required to be treated and disposed of as per provisions under said Rules. CPCB has also prepared guidelines that guide handling, treatment, and disposal of bio-medical waste in line with provisions under BMWM Rules, 2016.

Further, CPCB issued separate guidelines for ‘Handling, Treatment & Disposal of bio-medical waste generated during treatment, diagnosis, quarantine of Covid-19 patients which gives guidance on the management of Covid-19 related bio-medical waste including used masks and gloves. These guidelines were initially issued on 19 March 2019 and later revised on 17 July 2020.

As per CPCB Guidelines, used PPEs like face shields, goggles, hazmat suit, plastic coverall, used masks, head cover, shoe cover generated from Covid-19 isolation wards at healthcare facilities shall be segregated and sent to common facilities for disposal as per Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 (BMWM Rules). However, used PPEs like masks and gloves generated in common households, commercial establishments, and institutions are required to store separately for 72 hours for disposal and solid waste after cutting or shredding. Such shredded used masks from the household can be collected as dry solid waste by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

Guidelines issued by CPCB have been circulated to all stakeholders, and specific Directions were also issued by CPCB to all State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) to ensure compliance.

CPCB has taken the following additional measures for improvement of the management of bio-medical waste during the Covid-19 pandemic:

To monitor Covid-19 related bio-medical waste, CPCB developed a Covid-19 waste tracking App named “COVID19BWM”. Both android mobile and web versions of software applications were designed for waste generators, CBWTF operators, SPCBs, PCCs, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). 1st version of the App has been introduced, and a demonstration was given to SPCBs, PCCs, and other stakeholders in May 2020. SPCBs and CBWTFs were directed to ensure the usage of the Tracking App. CPCB, vide its letter dated 21 July 2020, issued Show Cause Notice to 106 CBWTFs for not using the COVID19BWM tracking App.

Under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, directions were issued in July 2020 to all the SPCBs and PCCs to ensure compliance with CPCB guidelines for effective bio-medical waste management. However, CPCB has also created a separate page on its website to disseminate awareness of Covid-19 related waste management, including safe disposal of masks and PPEs by the general public.

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