How Biomedical waste crisis can be controlled?

Pollution Sep 19, 2021

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What is Biomedical Waste?

Biomedical waste is the waste  generated from medical sources, laboratory and biological activities such as treatment of diseases. It is also known as hospital waste. Though such waste undergoes processes like incineration, autoclaving, microwaving, etc. to mitigate its harmful effects, how far it is eco-friendly is still a matter of concern.

Is Biomedical Waste Eco-friendly?

Biomedical waste is carefully disposed of, but the fact that many  medical products are made of plastic poses a serious threat to its degradability. Sources of biomedical waste include hospitals, laboratories, clinics, dispensaries and medical transporters.  Biomedical waste has the  potential to cause infections and other health issues. Extreme exposure to biomedical wastes may lead to land degradation and water contamination too, threatening the lives of flora and fauna in the water body. Hence, it is safe to say that biomedical waste is not as eco-friendly as it may sound.

Increase in Biomedical Waste Amidst Second Wave of Pandemic

Biomedical waste has always been a threat to the environment, but the pandemic, along with the prevailing climatic crisis, has exacerbated its risks.  India witnessed a hike of upto  46% in biomedical waste during the pandemic. The country produced 139 tonnes of biomedical waste per day during the initial days of COVID. Now, this has increased to 203 tonnes per day. The second wave of Covid-19 has led to a surge in use of face shields, masks, syringes, disposable bedsheets, etc. which require proper disposal. It was  reported that hazardous waste, such as used syringes and PCR testing kits were found in water bodies; posing a risk of contaminating drinking water and leading to a healthcare crisis. The cost of disposal of such waste is tremendous  and burdening the country’s recovering economy.

Improper disposal of hazardous waste also poses a threat to the lives of sanitation workers. Moreover, it can lead to quick spread of COVID-19. According to the BMW (Biomedical Waste Management) rules, the practice of deep burial was restricted, but there are states that still use this for disposal of biomedical waste. When it comes to proper disposal methods and facilities, India is already lagging behind and, in such cases, it is of utmost importance to take serious action and upgrade methods of sanitation and disposal. Many states are struggling with a spike in Covid cases and it becomes tougher to balance healthcare and sanitation. The Biomedical Waste Management authorities have decided to upgrade the management facility of biomedical waste by

  1. Aiming to make protective tools and equipment such as face masks and face shield biodegradable and eco-friendly.
  2. Sustainably producing and using such equipment in order to safeguard  the environment and support the recovering economy.
  3. Take proper safety measures and precautions for workers associated with biomedical waste collection.

4. Recycling and reusing the protective equipment to control the excessive waste production and upgradation in management of biomedical waste.

Some control measures are

  1. Avoiding inappropriate disposal of biomedical waste.
  2. Sterilizing  used medical equipment before disposing  it.
  3. Segregating biomedical waste and municipal waste.

This article has been written by Anisha Aravind for The Paradigm.

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