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WHO report: Covid-19 wastes pose a threat to the environment and health

WHO report: Covid-19 wastes pose a threat to the environment and health

Different Covid-19 waves, each with their own effects on the economy and disruptions to many activities, caused a pandemic and lockdown. In addition to the increase in Covid-19 cases, there were also more PPE kits, gloves, and masks being used as protection.

Yes, protecting is important. But there is another important aspect that deserves attention (i.e. How the extra medical wastes generated by the Covid-19 pandemic could pose a threat for the environment and people.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in tens of thousands more tonnes of medical waste, which has placed enormous strain on the health care waste management systems. This has presented a threat to human health and the environment and exposed a dire need for improved waste management practices.

The report also stated that approximately 87,000 tonnes worth of personal protective gear (PPE), were imported and shipped to support countries between March 2020-2021. Unfortunately, most of these equipments are likely to have been discarded.

They point out that 140 million test kits have been sold, with the potential to produce 2,600 tonnes non-infectious (mainly plastic) waste and 7,31,000 L of chemical waste. Furthermore, more than 8 billion doses worldwide of vaccine have been administered, resulting in 144,000 tonnes of additional waste, including syringes, needles and safety boxes according to the WHO report.

Due to the need for emergency PPE and other supplies, less attention was paid towards the safe and sustainable disposal of Covid-19-related medical waste.

How to manage

What should be done about these wastes It is crucial for health workers to be given guidance on how to dispose of PPE kits and other health commodities once they have been used. A WHO report found that only 30% of healthcare facilities are equipped to handle current waste loads. This causes many environmental problems and can also impact your health.

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The report makes recommendations to help build back the better. It recommends the use of environmentally friendly packaging and shipping. Reusable, safe PPE (gloves/face masks) should be made from recyclable or biodegradable materials. It was also recommended that you invest in non-burnable wastewater treatment technologies.

Covid-19 was difficult for many countries, but it is essential to manage the environment sustainably as well as health care waste. The report stated that strong national policies, regulations, regular monitoring, reporting, behaviour change support, workforce development, and increased funding are all possible to achieve this goal.

Published on


February 02, 2022

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