Before the pandemic began, hospitals around the world produced an estimated 0.5kg of healthcare wastes per bed each day. As the number of COVID-19 infections rose, so too did the amount of medical waste generated by hospitals, clinics, laboratories, quarantine centers, and research facilities. These vary in composition and can be broken down into general wastes, sharp wastes, infectious wastes, hazardous chemical wastes, and radioactive wastes, among other classifications. Compounding the problem is the amount of face masks used globally. Research shows that there are about 129 billion face masks used throughout the world each month or a staggering 3-million each minute, with most of these made with plastic microfibers.
In Southeast Asia, the pandemic has resulted in around 1-million kilograms of extra healthcare wastes each day. The bulk of this comes from the major capitals of Manila in the Philippines and Jakarta in Indonesia.
Without proper interventions, these medical wastes can hamper the fight against COVID-19, dampen the fight against climate change, and put the most vulnerable sectors of societies to even more risks.
The United Nations Environment Programme has released a compendium on how to properly tackle such healthcare wastes. Available via THIS LINK, the compendium provides data on medical wastes, treatment technologies, and sustainability assessments on these technologies.
Utilizing this compendium, along with real-time rapid response guidelines and other risk-reduction strategies should help institutions, cities, and countries better deal with the pandemic and other disasters over the short-, medium-, and long-term timescales.