Biomedical Waste Crisis
BIOMEDICAL WASTE CRISIS GD TOPIC
What is Biomedical Waste?
Biomedical waste can be defined as a type of waste that is generated during the diagnosis and treatment of humans as well as animals. Biomedical waste can also be termed as hospital waste. A significant part of this biomedical waste is infectious. Hospital waste is most infectious when it is fresh and that is why it demands proper waste management.
Biomedical waste includes infectious waste like discarded blood, microbiological cultures and stocks, amputated body parts and also non-infectious wastes like blades, scalpels, etc.
The world collectively has produced thousands of tonnes of these biomedical waste during the ongoing pandemic as the things like face masks, gloves, face shields, PPE kits, etc. are a part of everyone’s lives these days.
There is no such thing as ‘Away’, when we throw something away it must go somewhere – Annie Leonard
When you put the whole picture together, recycling is the right thing to do – Pam Shoemaker
We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to – Teri Swearingen
We don’t want to live in a trash can, so stop making one.
STATISTICS – What Numbers have to Say?
- According to the reports of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India is generating 146 tonnes of biomedical waste during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
- According to WHO, about 85% of the biomedical waste that is generated is normal, non-hazardous and non-infectious. The remaining 15% can be considered infectious and hazardous.
- Every year around 16 Billion injections are administered every year worldwide but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of.
DESCRIPTION – Let’s take a Deep Dive
Biomedical waste is a type of waste that is infectious and thus requires different types of disposal and waste management. At present during the online pandemic, biomedical waste like masks, gloves, face shields, etc. which are a part of our day to day lives, are getting mixed with the normal wastes. As a result, this waste which should be disposed of in a systematic manner is getting dumped in open dump yards and open land fields. Unknowingly this can be a major reason for the spread of infectious diseases like Covid-19.
The household waste in India is generally collected by the Workers of Waste management division of the local Municipal Corporation. Along with this, India has a large number of garbage pickers. The estimated number of garbage pickers in India is around 40 lakh. Because of the increase in biomedical waste in Indian households, almost all these people are at high health risk. A major reason behind this is the lack of awareness about biomedical waste management in the normal public.
BIOMEDICAL WASTE SEGREGATION
In the year 1998, the biomedical waste management and handling rule, 1998 was established. This rule was prescribed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In accordance with this rule, some common biomedical treatment facilities were established. The purpose of establishing these Common biomedical treatment facilities was to keep the normal public away from this waste in order to avoid spreading any diseases and also to keep the environment clean.
According to the Biomedical waste management and handling rule, the biomedical should be bifurcated into four colour-coded bags at the source itself.
- Yellow Bag- The yellow bag is used to collect the wastes like human and anatomical waste which includes the human tissues, amputated part, etc. Along with this, the yellow bag also contains solid wastes like used dressing and bandages, expired and discarded medicines and chemical wastes as well.
- Red Bag- The red bags contain disposable rubber items like tubings, IV sets, catheters, NG tubes, etc. It also contains rubber items like used gloves and specimen containers. To dispose of the items in the red bags, they are generally sent to the microwave or for chemical treatment and after this these items are sent for recycling.
- Blue Bag- The glassware items like used vials and ampoules, glass bottles are generally stored in the blue bags. The blue bag also collects items like metallic body implants.
- White Bag- The white bag collects punter proof containers like syringes, sharp items like needles, scalpels and blades.
CURRENT CHALLENGES ON BIOMEDICAL WASTE CRISIS
- Lack of infrastructure- At a local level like Municipal Corporation, India lacks the infrastructure to effectively process biomedical waste. There are about 198 common biomedical waste treatment facilities operational in the country which is far less for a country with a 1.3 billion population and more than 80,000 government and private hospitals. This ongoing pandemic has even worsened this situation by increasing this medical waste by multiple folds.
- Environmental Pollution- Biomedical waste is two-edged swords. It not only contaminates the soil and water but also causes a direct risk to the lives of humans. Improper disposal of biomedical waste can contaminate the water sources and in turn, cause a serious threat of infection to humans and animals. Some diseases are airborne and can be transmitted through the air. The improper disposal of biomedical waste increases the chances of such disease as well.
- Lack of awareness- People often consider biomedical waste as normal waste and dispose of it with normal household waste. This causes a serious threat to the lives of the sanitation workers, garbage pickers and also people who are working at the waste processing units. Government should run awareness campaigns to increase awareness about biomedical waste management and distribution.
HOW INDIA CAN OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?
- India should increase the number of common biomedical waste treatment facilities. Large cities like Delhi have only 2 Common biomedical waste treatment facilities (CBWTF) which are really insufficient to process the waste of such a large city.
- The government should create awareness about biomedical waste management. The campaigns should focus on points like the Difference between normal household waste and biomedical waste, the environmental impact of biomedical wastes, etc.
- As the hospitals and other facilities are required to conduct the fire audit of their facility, a similar audit can be done for biomedical waste management. The hospitals with the best biomedical waste management system should be recognized for their efforts.
- The sanitation workers should be trained properly to handle the biomedical waste and also they should be provided with basic gear like masks and gloves while handling any kind of waste.
Biomedical waste is an important issue that the world needs to tackle right now. The ongoing pandemic has made us think about a lot of things and one is the biomedical waste crisis. India needs to put in a lot of efforts and resources to bring about changes in the whole biomedical waste management system. Effective biomedical waste management will ensure a safer environment.
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Author – Tanmay Laturkar (Welingkar Bangalore)