Global analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19

What is the news?

The World Health Organisation(WHO) has released a report titled “Global analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19”.

What is the purpose of the report?

The report quantifies the additional COVID-19 healthcare waste generated, describes current healthcare waste management systems and solutions to reduce the impact of waste on human and environmental health.

What are the key findings of the report?

Waste Generated: Over 140 million test kits with a potential to generate 2,600 tonnes of non-infectious waste and 731,000 litres of chemical waste have been shipped. Moreover, over 8 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, producing 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles and safety boxes.

Healthcare waste Management: Currently, 30% of healthcare facilities (60% in the least developed countries) are not equipped to handle existing health care waste loads, let alone the additional COVID-19 load. 

This potentially exposes health workers to needle stick injuries, burns and pathogenic microorganisms, while also impacting communities living near poorly managed landfills and waste disposal sites.

Note: Healthcare sector is a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 4–5% of total emissions globally.

What are the recommendations given by the report?

Recommendations include using a) eco-friendly packaging and shipping b) safe and reusable PPE (e.g., gloves and medical masks) c) recyclable or biodegradable materials d) investment in non-burn waste treatment technologies such as autoclaves e) reverse logistics to support centralised treatment and f) investments in the recycling sector to ensure materials, like plastics, can have a second life.

Source: This post is based on the articleGlobal analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19published in WHO on 7th Feb 2022

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