Biomedical waste dumping

Covid has caused surge in hazardous waste production

Biomedical waste dumping

NEWS of heaps of biomedical waste being dumped in the open by hospitals in Hisar is shocking but not surprising — if you go around any large town or city in India, you’d find medical waste discarded close to hospitals, including PPE kits, syringes, gloves, face masks and used medicines. - File photo

NEWS of heaps of biomedical waste being dumped in the open by hospitals in Hisar is shocking but not surprising — if you go around any large town or city in India, you’d find medical waste discarded close to hospitals, including PPE kits, syringes, gloves, face masks and used medicines. Residents of different locations in New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru have been crying foul over rising heaps of medical waste being dumped in the open. The situation is replicated in the smaller cities, and the Hisar residents are not the first ones to raise a stink over this — similar reports have been coming from other cities in the region such as Gurugram, Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar, Mohali, Panipat and even the non-elite parts of Chandigarh.

Covid-19 has caused a big increase in the biomedical waste production. Before the pandemic struck, India produced around 600 tonnes of biomedical waste a day. In May, when the second wave was at its peak, the country produced 203 tonnes of Covid-related waste per day, ie, a 33% increase over the pre-pandemic figures. The surge in the number of cases has led to a corresponding surge in the generation of hazardous material — all medical gear and safety devices used in the identification of infected persons and their treatment are treated as extremely hazardous.

On paper, India should be able to handle the additional burden of Covid-related waste: Early this year, the Central Pollution Control Board said the country’s 198 biomedical waste treatment facilities — plus such facilities in hospitals — can treat 826 tonnes of biomedical waste per day, which is more than the May peak of 800 tonnes. The dumping of biomedical waste in the open, however, suggests that such figures could be inaccurate and all waste is not accounted for. Moreover, 22 of the 35 states and UTs generate more biomedical waste than they are equipped to treat. The solution lies in creating new biomedical waste treatment facilities in regions where they’re needed desperately, and using a carrot-and-stick policy to make hospitals follow the guidelines on waste disposal.

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