India generated 56K tonnes of Covid bio-medical waste in a yr

To track Covid-19 biomedical waste (BMW) and ensure safe disposal, the ministry had developed an app called Covid BMW. As of May, there were 198 common BMW treatment and disposal facilities in the country.

Bengaluru: India generated 56,898 tonnes of Covid-19-related biomedical waste between June 2020-21, an indication of the magnitude of the pandemic.

Data from the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change shows Maharashtra generated the maximum at 8,317 tonnes, followed by Kerala (6,442), Gujarat (5,004), Tamil Nadu (4,835), Delhi (3,995), Uttar Pradesh (3,881) and Karnataka (3,133). Experts say the lack of total correlation between infections and the waste burden only shows that the data is at odds with the ground situation.

To track Covid-19 biomedical waste (BMW) and ensure safe disposal, the ministry had developed an app called Covid BMW. As of May, there were 198 common BMW treatment and disposal facilities in the country. Maharashtra had the highest at 29 while Karnataka had 26.

Data with the central pollution control board shows peak generation of about 250 tonnes per day (TPD) was reported on May 10, when the second wave was at its peak in multiple states. The peak generation last year was in the range of 180–220 TPD.

Aparajita Chattopadhyay, professor, department of developmental studies, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, who co-authored a study on Covid-19 biomedical waste burden of different states, said the pandemic has only exposed the BMW handling scenario in India.

Chattopadhyay pointed out there is no clarity on the end point of biomedical waste generated by people in home isolation. “What happens to disposable masks used by people? What is the ideal way of disposal? These are not clearly stated by the government. In reality, this waste is mixed with municipal waste,” she said, adding that the need is to forge public-private partnerships to establish biomedical waste processing units across the country.

Dr Girdhar Gyani, director general, Association of Healthcare Providers in India (AHPI), echoed similar concerns and added that there is no uniformity in waste processing charges across the country.

DK Nagaraj, president, Karnataka Hospital Waste Disposal Facility Operators’ Association, said during the peak of the second wave, Bengaluru alone generated 5-6 tonnes of Covid-19 BMW per day. “Now, since cases have reduced, it has fallen to less than 2 tonnes per day in Karnataka,” said Nagaraj.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) constitutes a major portion of the waste. Early in the pandemic, even food waste generated by a Covid-19 patient was treated as biomedical waste and incinerated. “Disposable cutlery, pillows and bed covers were considered Covid-19 biomedical waste till September 2020,” said Dr HM Prasanna, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, Karnataka. “It used to be 3kg per patient in June 2020 but now it is around 1.2kg a day per patient.”

Now, only PPE, masks, gloves, cotton swabs, shoe covers, needles, syringes and IV fluid bottles are considered Covid-19 BMW.

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