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The war against COVID-19, being fought by healthcare and social workers, has resulted in a disturbingly large amount of plastic waste, especially biomedical waste as plastic products are in the forefront of the war, protecting warriors. So, there is a dire need for effective management of such waste. Here, we explain how such plastic waste can be handled to avoid secondary infections and at the same time help fight Coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed several risks associated with ease of transmission of the virus that can compromise the health of healthcare warriors, public servants, social workers, and play havoc with the health safety of citizens. It is only because of personal protective equipment, like masks, shields, hazmat suits, and other disposables made of plastics that the war is being fought without undue collateral. This, however, generates post-use waste which is bioactive and must be handled with appropriate protocols in view of its highly contagious nature. Large amounts of such waste are getting generated, which includes biomedical waste generated in hospitals, healthcare facilities, quarantine camps/ centres, and self-quarantine infected persons’ households. Along with this, disposable plastic products used by the patients are also considered infectious and have to be handled with care. Many products that were banned from the perspective of environmental pollution have come to be accepted to fight the COVID -19 pandemic. Sample collection centres, hospitals and quarantine centres need ventilators, syringes, wipes, and other medical equipment, which need usage of plastic. Thus, we can say that plastic products, like PPEs, and other disposables are at the forefront of the war, protecting our front line health care warriors and other human resources engaged in duty.
Failing to handle this waste with care can expose healthcare workers and waste collectors to higher risks of infection, and can result in further contamination. So, the government, urban local bodies, and waste management facilities need to realize the responsibility and strictly implement proper waste segregation and appropriate waste disposal by authorized biomedical waste treatment centres.
The Central Pollution Control Board has provided guidelines on how to handle, treat, and ensure safe disposal of biomedical waste. Accordingly, there is a need to label bins and containers with such waste as COVID-19 waste, so it is easier to segregate waste and treat it, to ensure no further contamination and pollution. The surfaces of bins and trolleys used to collect any sort of plastic waste, as well as storage facilities should be disinfected regularly.
We, the plastic manufacturers association of India, representing the plastic processing segment are aligned with the objective of keeping the environment clean of visible pollution and accordingly have sensitized all the states for apt handling of large amounts of plastic waste generated during the COVID-19 on priority. The pandemic has definitely established the significance of plastics and how crucial waste management is.