COVID-19 Medical Waste: Can Bangladesh Maintain it Properly?
By Adnan Mahfuz Tazvir
Concerns have been raised question about the mountains of one-time medical wastes used due to coronavirus infection. Protective items such as gloves, masks, and head caps are being discarded after use. This medical waste is dumped without proper disinfection, creating a severe health risk.
Currently, a significant number of patients infected with corona are receiving treatment at home. The protective materials they use for poor waste management are being mixed with ordinary waste. Again, except for a handful of hospitals, the rest are not working under the rules of medical waste management.
Experts say, ‘If we mix this medical waste with the ordinary waste, the infection due to COVID 19 coronavirus will increase. Also, this may increase the risk of disease with new types of viruses.
According to the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), a non-governmental development organization, about 250 tonnes of medical waste was collected last month from the capital Dhaka alone. Since the detection of COVID 19 in the country, it created nearly 14,500 tons of plastic waste, along with masks and hand gloves.
During this time, Dhaka has generated 1,314 tons of surgical hand gloves and 447 tons of surgical mask waste. A large part of this waste is being dumped everywhere, which has created a terrible risk of spreading the corona mass.
On the other hand, the cleaners are collecting these wastes without any personal safety equipment (PPE). Some of the city cleaners in Mirpur, Dhaka City, told the daily Bangladesh Pratidin that they are getting used rubber or plastic hand gloves and surgical masks with most of the garbage. Numerous used masks and gloves are now seen on the streets.
Experts say masks and hand gloves should not be left unattended at this time of the epidemic. This puts coronary infections at risk of spreading.
The concerned should disinfect the wastes through autoclaves machine and keep it in bio-safety bags. These wastes are then incinerated at high temperatures.
(Incineration is a process of waste treatment where the waste is being combusted in a special type of furnace chamber called incinerator).
They say, ‘The waste that is being generated from this protection material is increasing the risk. Those who are cleaners are directly at risk. And the mixing of these wastes with the soil will cause serious environmental problems.
If for some reason, this virus spreads to our livestock and wildlife, it will create terrible problems. Scientists fear that if, for some reason, the infection spreads to domesticated animals and we eat the meat and fish of those infected animals, the problem will be more serious.
Officials involved in the waste management of the two city corporations of Dhaka said that the general waste of various organizations, including houses in Dhaka metropolis, is collected and taken to Matuail and Aminbazar, the two landfilled side of Dhaka city. Prism, a non-governmental organization, has its plant in Matuail for medical waste management. These wastes are burnt there.
ESDO Secretary General Shahriar Hossain told the Bangladesh Pratidin, “It goes without saying that we do not have such medical waste management.
We have to store this waste separately and manage it individually. For this, a joint plan of the concerned, including City Corporation, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Industry, is needed.
And if they jointly plan and give a guideline for waste management, then at least some of this situation will be overcome.