Category: Legal Essay
Paper Code: LE-FN-13
Page Number: 414 - 418
Date of Publication: February 10, 2021
Citation: Farzin Naz, Biomedical Waste Management during COVID-19 Pandemic in India, 1, AIJACLA, 414, 414-418, (2021).
Details Of Author(s):
Farzin Naz, Advocate, Gauhati High Court
ABSTRACT What we are currently facing is an unexpected and turbulent change. This pandemic has locked crores of people in their homes, closed service organizations, and bought everything to a halt. Covid-19 is of recent origin. During this time, safe disposal of medical waste generated from examination and treatment of Covid-19 patients effectively is a must to protect the health of the people. Therefore, in this article, an attempt is made for understanding the challenges which India is facing at present and to suggest some measures which can be adopted for the proper disposal of biomedical waste. KEYWORDS Covid-19, Pandemic, Waste, Epidemic, Treatment, Disposal.
INTRODUCTION Coronavirus generally belongs to the family of Viruses commonly known as “Coronaviridae” and it derives its name from the Latin word “Corona” which means Crown. They are found in both animals as well as in human beings and can cause severe respiratory diseases in humans like “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” also known as SARS. A new strain was identified recently and was named “nCov”. As it was identified in the year 2019, hence it has been referred to as “Covid-19”. The first case of Covid-19 was detected in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019. It was further declared as a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organization in January 2020 and later was termed as pandemic. As compared to earlier outbreaks of SARS, COVID-19 has affected the entire globe and has spread in almost every continent. As the cases continue to rise in India, the amount of waste generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of Covid-19 Patients is increasing day by day. Besides controlling the pandemic, the Government is facing another issue i.e., safe and scientific disposal of biomedical waste. At present, India is producing about 2, 00,000 tonnes of waste p.a. Increase in biomedical waste in the city of Pune has resulted in the breakdown of the city’s only incinerator for treating bio-medical wastes. This shows that the Government has to take up necessary steps and follow proper disposal methods to prevent the spread of infection.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BIOMEDICAL WASTES GENERATED DURING COVID-19 Wastes generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of COVID-19 Patients includes Human Anatomical, Disinfectants, Discarded bed sheets, mattresses, blood, body fluids, Sharps, gloves, masks, gowns as well as other Recyclable wastes. As per WHO Guideline, the wastes generated are highly infectious and must be properly disposed of. Such wastes are to be pre-treated and disposed of by Wastes Collectors. As the amount of discarded PPE will increase during the pandemic, thus it is suggested that additional treatment plants are to be set up and alternative techniques should be adopted for handling wastes. For water generated from washing PPE, Gloves, and Reusable aprons, it is recommended that it should be cleaned by using soap and water and then should be decontaminated using sodium hypochlorite solution. All single-use gloves and gowns are not to be reused as they are highly infectious. A recent study on the surface stability of the virus shows that the deadly virus can survive up to 72 hours on materials like plastic and stainless steel and concerning copper surfaces, it can last only up to 4 hours. Thus, the immediate environment surrounding an infected person can be a good source for the spread of infection. Currently, the studies have not proved the spread of the virus from the feces of infected persons.
CENTRAL POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD’S GUIDELINES ON MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19 WASTES In April 2020, CPCB came up with a detailed guideline on handling and management of biomedical wastes generated from the treatment of Covid Patients. These guidelines have to be followed along with the Biomedical Wastes Management Rules of 2016. It has specified the duties of all the stakeholders concerning scientific management and disposal of biomedical waste at times of Covid pandemic. The guidelines are as follows: I. Isolation Wards: Wastes generated from isolated wards at quarantine centers are to be kept in double-layered, color-coded bags and containers. Such bags should be properly labeled as “Covid-19”, for better identification of Covid wastes. Diapers containing Faeces of patients should be kept in yellow bags; used PPE should be collected in red bags and masks should be kept in yellow bags. II. Duties of operators of CBWTF: Operators are under duty to provide adequate PPE to all the workers and report about the amount of collection of wastes to the concerned Pollution Control Boards from time to time. Properly sanitize the vehicle used for collecting Covid wastes. III. Duties of Pollution Control Boards/Committees: All the concerned authorities have to maintain records of several wards and quarantine centers, in the respective States. To ensure that wastes are properly collected and disposed of as per the BMW Rules of 2016 and CPCB’s guidelines. IV. Duties of Local Bodies: Furnish a report about collection and disposal of wastes generated from quarantine centers to the concerned Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committees. Further, they are to assist the CBWTF by providing authorization and support to the concerned staff of CBWTF.
WASTE CRISIS India is fighting with another bigger problem, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, i.e it is facing a waste crisis. Masks, gloves, PPE Kits, gowns, headgears, quarantine wastes including bed sheets and used quilt, laboratory wastes, etc. after use, ends up creating a huge amount of wastes. The discarded wastes contain almost all types of wastes like human anatomical waste, plastic wastes, and sharps. Over growing amount of wastes has resulted in overflowing of landfills, breaking up incinerators, etc. These wastes pose a serious threat to sanitation workers and rag pickers. Although guidelines have been laid down for providing proper PPE Kits, boots, and masks to all the sanitation workers, who are at a high risk of getting infected, it is evident that they are handling these wastes by only wearing masks. In a recent report from Mumbai’s Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility, near about 600kg of wastes in form of discarded masks and gloves ends up in landfills instead of proper incinerating sites as people are not segregating domestic wastes properly. To date, about 80 sanitation workers have tested positive, out of which 25 workers have died. Moreover, there is a suspicion amongst the scientists that Covid-19 can even affect animals since a tiger named Nadia in New York was alleged to have contracted with coronavirus from humans and similarly several other cases where both wild and domestic animals were alleged to have contracted with the virus.As such if Covid-19 wastes are not disposed of properly and are left open then it might even affect the animals in the concerned environment. India in total only has 198 Common Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBMWTs) and 225 captive incinerators which was reported to have been able to recycle only 78% of Bio-medical wastes in 2017. It can therefore be easily estimated that the present scenario of waste management infrastructure might not be able to handle the huge amount of Covid-19 wastes that are generated daily which are highly infectious are very dangerous for the survival of the ecosystem.
CONCLUSION During this pandemic, if bio-medical wastes generated during treatment and testing of Covid-19 patients are not disposed of properly then there will arise a major possibility of community spreading of this virus, which already has created a lot of issues in the health administration of the Nation. It is therefore required that more awareness regarding waste disposal shall be spread through various mediums where even NGOs as well as other organizations or individuals can participate in assisting the respective governments. It is not the time to criticize the government for not being able to manage such a huge amount of wastes, since even if the government machinery fails to address the issue due to lack of administration, yet we all will have to suffer the consequences which we are already suffering. Thus, besides criticizing the administration, it’s the responsibility of the social media also to aware the ignorant citizens of the measures they should take for proper disposal of such wastes. Arrangements shall be made by every citizen for disposing of their household wastes within their campus or locality itself through safe measures so that transportation of such wastes can be reduced. Those wastes that cannot be disposed of within one’s campus shall be segregated and properly isolated in a safe place so that the virus could die. These measures will reduce the burden on the municipal corporations which will allow them to focus more on disposing of those wastes that are generated during the treatment of Covid-19 wastes. Separate chambers shall be constructed at alternative places where bio-medical wastes from quarantine centers, Covid-19 laboratory clinics as well as hospitals can be kept in isolation for seven days alternatively in different chambers in isolation for allowing the virus to die before disposal. However, the areas where such chambers will be constructed must be isolated from all kinds of humans, animals, or even birds.
 Anurag Bortahkur, Coronavirus and India, A.T, March, 19, 2020.  Umesh Ishalkar, Covid-19 waste surge breakdown incinerator, T.O.I, Jun, 2020, 15.  Water, Sanitation, hygiene and Waste Management for COVID-19 virus, World Health Organization, (Jun. 2020, 28, 10:00 AM), https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331846/WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC_WASH-2020.3-eng.pdf.  Guidelines for Handling, Treatment and Disposal of Waste Generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of COVID-19 Patients, Central Pollution Control Board (Ministry Of Environment, Forest And Climate Change), (Aug. 2020, 31, 10:00 AM), https://tnpcb.gov.in/pdf_2020/BMW-GUIDELINES-COVID_Revisied_April2020.pdf.  Jayashree Nandi, India stares at biomedical crisis, H.T, Jun. 2020, 23.  Ibid.  Helen Davidson, Hong Kong warns residents not to kiss pets after dog contracts coronavirus, The Guardian, (Sep. 2020, 05, 03:54 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/05/hong-kong-warns-residents-not-to-kiss-pets-after-dog-contracts-coronavirus.