Waste Management in the Era of CoVID-19

On 6th June 2020, Centre for Chronic Disease Control co-hosted a webinar titled “Waste Management in the Era of CoVID-19, with Centre for Environmental Health, Public Health Foundation of India, Heath and Environment Leadership Platform and Health Care Without Harm.

The expert panel included:

  • Ruth Stringer: International Science and Policy Director, Health Care Without Harm
  • Dr. Shyamala Mani: Consultant, Centre For Environmental Health
  • Dr. Malini Capoor: Professor Microbiology, Incharge Biomedical Waste Unit, VMMC and Safdarjung Hospital
  • Youthika Puri: Scientist D, Biomedical Waste Management, Central Pollution Control Board
  • Dr Ramesh Kumar: Medical Officer of Health and Director (Public Health), New Delhi Municipal Corporation

The webinar highlighted key challenges while handling municipal solid waste and healthcare waste during CoVID-19. It emphasized on the strategies to achieve appropriate waste management during the current pandemic. The webinar also served as a platform to address queries of healthcare establishments as well as the general public regarding CoVID-19 waste management.

Dr. Poornima Prabhakaran, Deputy Director, Centre for Environmental Health opened the session by introducing the hosts and went over to talk about various implications of CoVID-19 on the environment. She mentioned both the positive and negative aspects of the ongoing pandemic and spoke about how lockdown has resulted in a relatively cleaner environment. The negative side highlighted was about the possible collapse of the waste management channels at various fronts despite having comprehensive and updated guidelines by the regulatory bodies. The migrant crisis and the crumbling of the social fabric was among other key concerns brought up during the introductory session.

Expert Quotes:

“Healthcare workers must be adequately trained, protected and must be provided with routine and free of charge immunization against Tetanus, AIDS, and Hepatitis”

Ruth Stringer presented an international perspective on healthcare waste management during the CoVID-19.

“Biomedical waste management is an important public health concern and it is not only our legal responsibility but also social responsibility. Our BMWM solutions must be sustainable not only for the current generation but for the generations to come.”

Dr. Malini Capoor enlightened the participants about the challenges faced by healthcare establishments while managing biomedical waste with a special focus on CoVID-19 wast

Youthika Puri talked about the role of policymakers to tackle the challenges of healthcare waste management in India during the CoVID-19 pandemic. Dr Ramesh Kumar highlighted key issues in the management of municipal solid waste at community level and the waste generated from homecare units and quarantine homes.

Excerpts from the webinar:

Waste segregation and collection remain the biggest challenges in managing biomedical waste during CoVID-19. It is irrational to put everything including food waste in yellow bags during CoVID-19. The use of IEC such as the Pictorial Guide on Biomedical waste Management Rules, 2016 developed by CCDC-PHFI can play a significant role in building capacity among health workers and avoid unnecessary confusion regarding waste segregation and collection during CoVID-19. It can help the health workers understand the need and importance of waste segregation, safe handling, treatment, and disposal in the prescribed manner which have become the biggest challenge for healthcare facilities during CoVID-19.

In order to ensure the safety of health workers it is important to focus on the quality, cost, and availability of PPEs. Along with this training the staff on the adequate manner of PPE use, removal, and final disposal is considered to be crucial in the current scenario.

Apart from the use of PPE, maintaining hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and ensuring health check-ups of the healthcare facility staff are among other challenges that need to be addressed during CoVID-19. Conducting regular health check-ups, making pre-prophylactic medicines available, and conducting CoVID-19 testing once in 10-14 days can help in achieving this.

For community waste management, the prevention of littering and minimizing the quantities of waste is important. Collection of mixed waste i.e. non-segregated waste from households during CoVID-19 times is a huge problem for the sanitation community. Segregating waste into bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste, sanitary waste, and domestic hazardous waste at its source can play significant role in the current pandemic. Similar to health workers it is important to provide PPEs and build capacity among community sanitation workers. These measures can reduce the occupational health risks for waste workers at the Dalaos.  

Incase you missed the Webinar, you can watch the Recording of the Webinar via this YouTube Link: