With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continuing to spread and its impacts upon human health and the economy intensifying day-by-day, governments are urged to treat waste management, including of medical, household and other hazardous waste, as an urgent and essential public service in order to minimise possible secondary impacts upon health and the environment.
During such an outbreak, many types of additional medical and hazardous waste are generated, including infected masks, gloves and other protective equipment, together with a higher volume of non-infected items of the same nature. Unsound management of this waste could cause unforeseen “knock-on” effects on human health and the environment. The safe handling and final disposal of this waste is, therefore, a vital element in an effective emergency response.
Effective management of biomedical and health-care waste requires appropriate identification, collection, separation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal, as well as important associated aspects including disinfection, personnel protection and training. The UN Basel Convention’s Technical Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Biomedical and Healthcare Wastes includes information and practical aspects of waste management useful for authorities seeking to minimise hazards to human health and the environment.
The safe management of household waste is also likely to be critical during the COVID-19 emergency. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines, and other items can easily become mixed with domestic garbage but should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately. These should be separately stored from other household waste streams and collected by specialist municipality or waste management operators. Guidelines on the specificities of recycling or disposing of such waste is given in detail in the Basel Convention’s Factsheet on Healthcare or Medical Waste.
Parties to the Basel Convention are currently working on a guidance document for soundly managing household waste and whilst not yet finalized, an initial draft may be consulted for provisional guidance.
Original source: UN Environment
Published on 24 March 2020