Defeating the devil in the waste: Remediation of infectious Covid-19 waste

Pictures of Covid-19 waste floating in the sea and rivers, scattered waste outside the garbage bins and stray animals carrying mask in their mouths are in circulation on social media. Low-income countries with weak health systems, crowded megacities and large populations of impoverished people are facing huge challenge to dispose Covid-19 biomedical waste generated every day. Failure to pay attention to the Covid-19 waste management may result in risk of poor outcomes during the pandemic which is far higher among those with comorbidities. The Covid-19 infectious-biomedical waste generated from the health care and research activities are posing a huge invisible threat. The waste containing many deadly microorganisms, their toxins and particularly Corona Virus are posing a risk of infection relapse and occurrence of future infection waves.

Infectious waste originating from health care facilities and research activities produce mass scale single use waste including metal, plastic and glass lab consumables. Given the range of waste generated every day, management of infectious biomedical waste should become an integral part of our health care systems and should not be ignored. Proper segregation and management of Covid-19 infectious-biomedical waste is paramount.  Becoming waste wise and controlling the biological risk at the segregation facilities to prevent cross-contamination can help combating Covid-19. Many options that could prove useful for the treatment of biomedical waste are available and should be opted in such a health crisis.

Use of chemicals disinfectants such as Sodium hypochlorite, dissolved chlorine dioxide, per-acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide etc. Most chemical processes are water-intensive and require neutralizing agents. Thermal processing utilizing heat to disinfect waste including Low-heat (93 -177oC) and high heat systems (540°C and 8300°C; Datta et al., 2018). The other processes are mechanical processes involving compaction to reduce the volume of waste and shredding to destroy plastic and paper waste to prevent their reuse. Irradiation processes exposing waste to ultraviolet or ionizing radiation in an enclosed chamber. Biological processes with the use of biological enzymes for treating medical waste.  The complete decontamination of biomedical waste cannot be guaranteed. In place of an autoclave, new technologies like STERIPLUS™ system (from Tesalys’) can be used for better results. One need to understand and segregate the waste first and choose an appropriate method for the waste treatment.

Bio-medical waste management need committed government backing, good practices followed by both health-care workers and health care facilities, continuous monitoring of practices, and strong administration. It is our fundamental right to live in clean and safe environment. Segregation of waste at source and waste reduction should be of prime importance for management. Lack of education, awareness and trained personnel to manage the waste and paucity of the funds available to proper waste management system are currently causing biggest challenges that the hospital and research centers are facing during the implementation of biomedical waste.

For full article:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.