Tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste generated during the COVID-19 pandemic threaten health: WHO

The tens of thousands of tons of medical waste generated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic pose a threat to human and environmental health, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a report Tuesday.

Excess waste “threats human and environmental health and exposes an urgent need to improve waste management practices,” said the United Nations Health Agency.

by Agency report, Between March 2020 and November 2021, approximately 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) were ordered through the United Nations Joint Emergency Initiative and shipped to countries, most of which were treated as waste. it was done.

The author has shipped over 140 million test kits, producing mainly plastic non-infectious waste of 2,600 tonnes and 731,000 liters of chemical waste, equivalent to one-third of an Olympic-sized pool. It states that there is a possibility of doing so.

In addition, more than 8 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide, generating 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles and safety boxes.

This report only considers COVID-19 products procured through the United Nations Joint Emergency Initiative, not waste generated by the general public or other initiatives.

As the WHO competed with the United Nations and countries around the world to secure a supply of PPE in a pandemic, authorities are less likely to manage waste from COVID-19-related medical care in a safe and sustainable manner. He said he wasn’t focused.

Authorities are calling for the implementation of an “effective management system.” Please note that this includes guidance on how to safely and sustainably dispose of PPE and other health products after use, and that 30% of medical facilities are not equipped. Handles existing waste load.

Authorities said the number was about 60 percent in developing countries.

“Providing the right PPE to healthcare professionals is absolutely essential, but it is also important to ensure that it can be used safely without impacting the surrounding environment,” said the WHO Emergency Officer. One Dr. Michael Ryan said.

Risks associated with lack of adequate handling of such waste can lead to needlestick injuries, burns, and pathogenic microorganisms in health care workers, as well as poorly managed waste disposal sites. It affects communities living in nearby areas and increases the risk of water quality deterioration. Contaminated air when waste is burned.

“Significant changes at all levels of how to manage the flow of health care waste, from the world to the hospital floor, are the climate-friendly health care that many countries have committed to at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference. The basic requirements of the system, of course, a healthy recovery from COVID-19 and preparation for other health emergencies in the future, “said Maria Neira, Head of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO. The doctor says.

Report authors have a set of recommendations to help stop threats to human and environmental health, including environmentally friendly packaging and shipping, safe and reusable PPE, and the use of recyclable or biodegradable materials. Was shown.

They also sought further investment in methods of removing waste without burning, such as autoclaves, machines used to heat and destroy medical devices, and investment in the recycling sector to enable certain materials. Will be reused.

The WHO report is in the forefront of the Biden administration’s overall government efforts to tackle the climate crisis through the Buildback Better (BBB) ​​initiative, a program in which Washington invests approximately $ 550 billion in renewable energy and climate change initiatives. It’s inside.

Catabella Roberts


Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She focuses primarily on the United States and covers the news and business of The Epoch Times.