Biomedical waste rose during second wave of pandemic

COVID-19 Environment Health

Disposable masks are a major  contributor to it

Face shields, PPE kits, and disposable face masks have added to the medical waste generated in Bengaluru hospitals after the Covid-19 outbreak. Disposable face masks are used in huge numbers and inappropriate disposal of the same is a danger to the environment

M.A. Srinath, Vice President of Operations at Maridi Bio Industries Pvt Ltd, a waste management service in Bengaluru, informed The Observer: – “The government gave orders to separate Covid waste from day one. So general waste and Covid waste were segregated from the beginning. (We) saw an almost 30% rise in this waste in the second wave….”

There is a biomedical waste (BMW)  room on every floor of The Bangalore Hospital, Nagamohan V, the person in charge of housekeeping shared. “There are seven floors and there is one BMW room on every floor. We clean and sanitize it every day.” Masks are categorized as hazardous waste. “Disposable masks used by doctors, nurses and hospital staff are contaminated and hence thrown in yellow bins.”

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), there are colour-coded bins for better and correct disposal of waste. Green bins are used for general waste; blue bins for glassware and vials; red bins for recyclable plastic waste, and yellow bins for hazardous waste.

Doctors following the guidelines on disposable masks. Dr Anuja Dalvi said she prefers disposable masks to cloth masks as they are better for prevention against Covid and much more breathable.

Vani VND, the infection control nurse at the Jayanagar General Hospital, said “Every ward here has four dustbins. We make sure that waste is thrown in the correct bin.” They don’t have BMW rooms but there is one area outside the building that has four rooms for four types of waste. 

“We have a barcode scanning system which provides information about the type of waste in a bag and its weight. This information is then forwarded to Maride services and CPCB,” she added.

Dr Sangarsh M N, an intern in Mangaluru, said: “I prefer N-95 masks. It they are not  available, I use three-layered masks. 

Dr Tapan Kumar Basu, a consulting anesthesiologist, said: “The pores in surgical masks are smaller compared to those in cloth masks. So they are more effective. Ideally, one should wear a surgical mask and then wear either an N-95 mask or a cloth mask.”

Dr Tushar Joshi, a physiotherapist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai, too, prefers disposable masks as they are better to avoid the spread of infections and cross-contamination.

Dr Arvind Maruthi, ayurvedic practitioner  at SVYASA Yoga University, holds a  different view: “I use cloth masks as they are very comfortable and we can reuse them after every wash.” 

According to Indian Medical Device Industry, India has a production capacity of 1.5 billion three-layer face masks.
Akshay Heblikar, environmentalist and director of the NGO Eco-Watch, said the disposal of bio-medical waste is a big problem. “Sometimes people throw disposable masks in just any garbage waste bin. It should be properly disposed of and then incinerated  correctly. Because if not, there might be adverse effects on sanitation workers and also the environment.”

According to Science Daily, masks that cannot be biodegraded may fragment into smaller plastic particles that are widespread in the ecosystem.


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