Managing biomedical waste

News: Since the outbreak of Covid pandemic, there has been rise in the Safe handling and elimination of biomedical waste.

Read here: 23 states at additional Covid risk due to Biomedical waste
What are the challenges associated with biomedical waste?

– Mixing biomedical waste with household garbage led to infection, as most wastes were disposed of in the landfill sites.

– No proper management and waste disposal in hospitals and other covid designated medical centres.

– Littering of discarded Covid-related stuff, such as masks, face shields, etc alongside roads, hospitals, healthcare centres and other places.

Read here: Use app to monitor COVID-19 biomedical waste, SC to civic bodies
What are the government initiatives to handle biomedical waste?

The government introduced Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016, which is regularly updated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) because of the ongoing covid pandemic. Some of the latest CPCB guidelines are:

–  It requires the bio-waste to be packed in double-layered yellow bags and transported in specialised vehicles to the designated common biomedical waste treatment facilities for incineration, autoclaving or burning to generate energy.

– The CPCB has created a special mobile application, “Covid-19 BWM (Biomedical Waste Management) App”, to keep a tab on pandemic-related information, including the handling of infectious junk.

– CPCB provides training for handling perilous waste in infection-prevention methods, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquettes, and other needed measures through video films and demonstrations.

What are the challenges associated with the government initiatives?

1) CPCB norms are not strictly followed. 2) Although mandatory, the required data is rarely uploaded by the concerned bio-waste handling agencies in the BWM App.

What should be the way forward?

Some healthcare experts suggested to bar-coded the yellow bags to track the source of the unsafe garbage and its movement to the waste treatment centres.  Also, the Delhi-based union of waste collectors and sweepers is demanding to provide safety gear and to be treated on par with other front line Covid-19 workers. They also demand separate isolation houses, as are lacking in spaces for home quarantine. So, the Government should work on these suggestions.

Also, the government should initiate a public awareness campaign about the safe handling of biomedical waste.

Source: This post is based on the article “Managing biomedical waste” published in the Business Standard on 11th January 2022.

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