The coronavirus pandemic has created a new waste crisis in the national capital. It accounts for 10% of Covid-19 biomedical waste generated in the country each day. Delhi is the third-largest generator of such waste after Maharashtra and Gujarat.
According to the report by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), Delhi is generating 11 tonnes of Covid related waste and 27 tonnes of non- Covid biomedical waste every day.
Before the covid-19 crisis, both government and private hospitals typically produce 500 grams of biomedical waste per bed daily. But after the Covid- 19 crisis the number has gone up to between 2.5Kg to 4Kg per bed daily.
According to BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) estimates Mumbai has been generating 9 tonnes of Corona virus-related waste and 6 tonnes of non- Covid biomedical waste every day.
There are 200 biomedical treatment facilities in Delhi and of these two are west Delhi’s Lilothi and on GT Karnal Road near Jahangirpuri. These plants together can process 63 tonnes of biomedical waste every day including Covid waste.
According to the CPCB data, the Capital’s total incineration capacity is 37 tonnes per day and currently these facilities are running at 70%-75% of its Covid waste capacity.
A large Covid facility can produce somewhere around 1800 to 2200 kg of biomedical waste per day and now multiplying the number with hospitals, quarantine centers, sample collection centers, and laboratories dealing with Covid-19 and generating waste every, which is a big volume and the cases are also rising day by day further adding the problem.
Another problem is that all the general municipal garbage and biomedical waste are mixed up and are non-segregated during collection. This not only creates an unwanted burden on the incinerators designed only to handle biohazardous waste, but also risks the lives of sanitation workers who handle this waste.
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What are the Waste Disposal Guidelines?
On April 18, The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) released various guidelines on the treatment and disposal of waste generated by designated sites such as hospitals, laboratories, quarantine centers, containment zones, and isolation facilities.
Accordingly, used masks, tissues, head covers, shoe covers, disposable linen gowns, non-plastic, and semi-plastic coveralls were to dispose of in a yellow bag meant for incineration at CBWTF. So were leftover food, disposable plates, glasses, used masks, tissues, and toiletries of Covid-19 patients.
Those in home isolation, in containment zones, should deposit biomedical waste generated from suspected or recovered Covid-19 patients in yellow bags to authorized waste collectors.
Use of red bag waste for contaminated plastic such as goggles, splash-proof aprons, plastic coverall, hazmat suits, and nitrile gloves, which meant to sterilized, shredded, and sent for recycling.
What Must be Done?
According to Chitra Mukherjee, head of operations at Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, “The solid waste management rules of 2016 have provisions of penalties for failure to segregate waste, yet nothing has been done. Can the municipal corporations tell us the name of one person they have fined? Covid has exposed this failure.”
Mukherjee mentioned that the aim must be to reduce waste generation. She further said, “How many more incinerators can we install? It is the time to return to the basics of waste management by reducing garbage generation. Medical professionals should use masks and PPE kits made of plastic components, but citizens must be encouraged to use washable cloth masks.”