In 2020 when COVID-19 hits India, nobody has ever imagined that it will become deadly for the human population. We were not ready for it. With the surge in COVID cases, there is a sudden rise in demand for biomedical equipment such as masks, PPE Kits, Sanitisers, Injections, etc. Hospitals were full of COVID patients. The whole world has witnessed several deaths all around the globe. Then comes the second wave in 2021. One mask, especially a fabric mask, was not enough. The government instructed the citizens to wear double masks. N-95 proves to be the best in terms of preventing COVID-19.
At a point, we all feel that humanity is on the verge of extinction. But situations are getting better now. We are moving towards normalcy. However, a new challenge of “Biomedical Waste Management” has entered our lives. This crisis is the result of our negligent attitude towards the environment. We have generated a lot of biomedical waste in terms of PPE Kits, masks, etc. As a result, our environment is suffering badly. We are neglecting the fact that failed disposal of such protective equipment can lead to long-term issues. No one can underestimate the efforts of the government in disposing of biomedical equipment. However, the amount of waste generated every day is massive.
According to a news report, 1.56 billion masks entered the oceans in 2020 that amounts to approximately 6,240 metric tonnes of plastic in oceans. The worst part is that these plastics take up to 450 years to break down. It leads to Plastic Pollution in Oceans. It is ultimately causing harm to various aquatic animals. They are already in danger due to toxic effluents released by industries in the oceans. Also, people are throwing masks, PPE kits everywhere on the road. Animals can consider it as food and may take it in their mouth. As a result, it can harm them.
We should not ignore that the biomedical equipment might have traces of the coronavirus, which can further spread it among humans and animals. It can also give birth to more viruses. Humans are facing one of the toughest times ever. It will become more deadly once animals come in contact with it. They will die in large numbers since they can’t express their pain. The cost of disposing of biomedical waste has gone up. It has increased from ₹10-13 to ₹58 per kilogram. According to a report by The Hindu Times, a small hospital can generate up to 100 kg of biomedical waste a day.
In the previous year, KSPCB released guidelines to manage such waste using different color-coded bins with foot-operated lids. Yellow for highly infectious waste. The bin should be separately labeled as”COVID-19″ to keep it away from other bins. Red for contaminated recyclable waste generated from disposable items. White for waste sharps such as needles, syringes with fixed needles. Last, blue for broken or discarded and contaminated glassware.
There are many issues that the world is facing right now. We should avoid more crises in the future. For that, we should ensure the safe disposal of biomedical waste. At least we have to be conscious about the waste generated by us individually. One should throw used masks and other biomedical equipment in the dustbin that has a lid. The ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) with relevant authorities have to ensure capacity building with minimum leakages of biomedical waste in traveling from source to disposal. The government should fasten the process of waste disposal.
Scientists should find new ways to utilize and reuse such waste since disposing of it harms the environment. So, it is better to make good use of it. Well, some people are already working on this. One example is Abhijit VVR, one of the co-founders of Indra Waters, explaining the government-approved eco-friendly disinfectant Vajra Kavach effective in reusing those N95 Masks, PPE, etc. again. The disinfectant removes all the traces of the virus from the PPE kits, masks, and other biomedical equipment. In this way, we can reuse them and prevent the generation of a large amount of undesirable waste.
We can avoid such a crisis in the future by putting small efforts and care into the present. No doubt, coronavirus has come up with new challenges and restrictions for us. It is always better to work together firmly to bring a positive change in society. The issue of Biomedical Waste Management does not only belong to the government. Every individual has to ensure that he/she will throw the used biomedical equipment safely in the dustbin. Strictly avoid throwing them carelessly here and there.
The statistics of biomedical waste generated every day are depressing. There are many ways in which we can contribute less towards this crisis. It is the need of the hour. Let’s be individually responsible. Every sector needs to put its efforts together to resolve this issue. Scientists, government, and concerned authorities should find different ways to reuse, dispose and utilize this biomedical waste.
“Safety is necessary. Precaution is compulsory and Disposal is mandatory.”
– RENU NEGI