As our nation stays at second place in the list of worst-affected countries by COVID-19, the concerns regarding the management of COVID-19 waste, produced by several hospitals, nursing homes, isolation wards, households are increasing drastically

Ever come across any used PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like a mask or glove lying on the street? If you haven’t then you are fortunate enough to be residing in a locality where people are well informed on how to dispose of this biomedical waste.

But wait, how do you dispose of your mask that you use daily to protect yourself against COVID-19? Throw it in a common bin in the neighborhood as you would have done normally with other waste? If yes, then are you aware of the risk it poses to the environment and to human health? Do you know how disposing of this waste properly can help in reducing the widespread of the deadly virus also known COVID-19?

As our nation stays at second place in the list of worst-affected countries by COVID-19, the concerns regarding the management of COVID-19 waste, produced by several hospitals, nursing homes, isolation wards, and households are increasing drastically. Despite the fact that the threat of contracting the virus is hair-raising, what is more alarming is the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the COVID-19 waste that is generated during the diagnosis and treatment of the people that are affected by the deadly virus COVID-19.

Through this article I would like to let you know the guidelines for handling, treatment, and disposal of COVID-19 waste.

Rules and Regulations to Manage COVID-19 Waste

Note: These guidelines are provided by CPCB ( Central Pollution Control Board).

These guidelines in maintaining the COVID-19 waste are required to be followed by every center including laboratories, sample collection centers, quarantine centers, isolation wards, ULBs and common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facilities. Moreover, this is in addition to the existing biomedical waste management practices under BMW Management Rules, 2016.

These guidelines are based upon the gathered information on COVID-19. Additionally, upon the existing guidelines in managing biomedical waste generated in hospitals while treating viral and infectious diseases like HIV. These guidelines can also be updated if needs arise.

Isolation Wards, Sample Collection Centers and Laboratories

  • Maintain separate identifiable colored bins (with foot operated lids)/bags/containers in wards. In addition to ensuring that  proper segregation of waste as per BMWM Rules, 2016 as amended and CPCB guidelines for implementation of BMW Management Rules is being followed.
  • As a precautionary measure, for collection of biomedical waste from these wards a double layered bag should be used. This is to ensure that the bags have sufficient strength and there are no leaks.
  • covid 19 waste management process
    covid 19 waste management process (Source: Central Pollution Control Board)
  • Collection and storing of these biomedical waste should be strictly maintained separately prior to handing over to CBWTF.
  • These bins/bags/containers for collection of COVID-19 waste should also be labelled as “COVID-19”. Consequently, this will enable the CBWTFs to easily identify the waste for priority treatment and will also alert them that these waste are to be disposed of immediately upon receipt.
  • General solid waste generated from these wards that can include from wrappers of medicines to left-over food should be collected separately as per SWM Rules, 2016. Moreover, to reduce the amount of waste generated non-disposable items should be used for various purposes such as serving food. However, appropriate precautions should be in place while handling such items as per hospital guidelines. Furthermore, if use of disposable items is unavoidable then it is advised to use biodegradable cutlery. 
  • The solid waste bags should be strapped securely in leak-proof bags and also sodium hypo-chlorite solution should be sprayed upon them before handing over to authorized waste collectors of ULB’s. These bags should be handed over to the ULB’s on a regular basis. Also Yellow colored bags should not be used for collecting such waste. Additionally, disposable bags should be utilized for collecting wet-waste.
  • Concerned authorities should maintain separate records of COVID-19 waste generated from these wards.
  • Avoid dragging these collected bins but use dedicated trolleys. Of course every item used for maintenance of these wastes should be labelled as COVID-19 including the trolley. Moreover, the (inner and outer) surface of containers/bins/trolleys should be sanitized with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution on a regular basis.
  • Opening or operating of COVID-19 ward and COVID-19 ICU ward should be reported to SPCBs/PCCs and CBWTF located in the respective location. Also register in COVID19BWM, a mobile application, to update the details of COVID-19 biomedical waste generation.
  • Manage biomedical waste as per BMWM rules
    Manage biomedical waste as per BMWM rules (Source: Central Pollution Control Board)
  • Excreta collected in diapers from COVID-19 confirmed patients should be treated and collected as biomedical waste in a yellow bag/container. This is for those patients who can’t use toilets. Being said that, if a bedpan is used then it should be washed into the toilet. Also cleaned with neutral detergent and water, not to mention sanitizing it with 0.5% chlorine solution. Additionally, rinsing it with clean water.
  • Used PPEs such as face-shield, splash proof apron, goggles, coverall suits, gloves, etc. should be collected in a red bag. However, used masks, shoe-cover, head cover, disposable linen Gown, non-plastic or semi-plastic coverall should be collected in yellow bags.
  • Likewise used tissues, masks, and toiletries of the patient infected with COVID-19 should be treated as biomedical and shall be collected in a yellow bag.
  • Every ward/isolation room should ensure that segregation of biomedical waste and general solid waste are properly being followed while collecting the waste and not while storing the same to ensure occupational safety. 
  • Appoint separate sanitation workers exclusively for handling biomedical waste and general solid waste. This will help in collection and transportation of these wastes in a timely manner.
  • Adequate training and awareness should be provided to waste handlers about the safety protocols via videos and demonstration in local dialects. This training should be conducted by a designated nodal officer in the hospital. Moreover, these officers should also be well trained under the guidance of Health Departments / professional agencies in association with SPCB/ PCC of the States/ UTs.

Quarantine Centers, Camps, and Home Care/Quarantine

Home care/quarantine – A place where care and treatment is provided to a COVID-19 positive patient.

Though these places wouldn’t be producing much waste as compared to hospitals however people taking care of these places will need to follow the listed steps. This is to ensure safe handling and disposal of waste.

  • Guidelines for handling and disposing COVID-19 waste
    Guidelines for handling and disposing COVID-19 waste (Source: Central Pollution Control Board)
  • General solid waste (household waste) generated from quarantine centers, camps, and homes should be collected in bags that are tied carefully and handed over to MSW collectors that are identified by ULBs for final disposing. These general solid wastes include waste food, floor cleaning dust, packaging material, waste generated from the kitchen, etc. In addition to any general solid waste generated by suspected or positive COVID-19 patients.
  • Waste such as gloves, masks, tissues, and swabs adulterated with blood/body fluids of the patient should be treated as biomedical waste. This includes used syringes, medicines, etc.
  • The biomedical waste generated from these places should be collected separately in yellow bags that are provided by ULBs. Moreover, these bags should be disposed of in separate and dedicated bins of suitable size. However, do keep in mind that general solid waste should not be stored in yellow bags.
  • Concerned authorities/individuals operating these places should designate a nodal person who will be in-charge for managing and maintaining the record of those waste.
  • Designated nodal personnel should register the center/camp on COVID19BWM and also update the details of waste generated on a daily basis.
  • Concerned authorities/individuals operating these places should contact the CBWTF operator for the collection of biomedical waste generated. You can find the contact details from a local authority.
  • People operating these facilities should report to ULBs in case there are any issues in receiving disposal services for general solid waste or biomedical waste.

P.S.

Biomedical waste from these facilities may also comprise expired or discarded medicines. Moreover, in the event of patients with other chronic diseases it may also include urine bags, body fluid, drain bags, blood soaked tissues/cotton, etc. Also, these wastes would be treated as domestic hazardous waste as described by Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. Consequently, these wastes should be disposed of as per provisions under Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Similarly, general solid waste from these places  should be segregated separately and disposed as per provisions under SWM Rules, 2016.

Way Forward

It is not an unknown fact that inappropriately disposing of these wastes poses a great risk not only to the environment but also to the lives of sanitation workers. Not to mention these workers are mostly untrained for handling such hazardous waste. Our nation has always been struggling with the issue of proper disposal of waste. Now that the country is striked with one of the deadliest viruses the issue has got worse.

However is it the authorities or the government to be blamed?

It is worth mentioning that India has taken every measure as it is being taken in other countries such as Germany and France in putting down best practices for disposing waste materials. That includes:

  • Segregation of waste or proper labeling
  • Sanitizing the transportation of carrying the waste

The main issue here is not the lack of rules and regulations but the implementation of the same rules and regulations. So, it is highly recommended that everyone follow the guidelines as provided by the concerned authorities.

I hope this article helps you in managing the COVID-19 waste. I will be writing on duties of Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) and SPCBs/PCCs in managing the waste on my next blog. So, stick around!

richard singha
Author

He is an author who writes about new technologies and environmental issues. His work has been honored and shared on several social media platforms. His research focuses on the effect of waste on the environment. A prolific researcher and writer, he has written several blogs which aim to provide knowledge and information on how to manage the waste and tackle the issues that are being created. Focusing on environmental topics, his work also aims at developing a solution that will not only lessen the waste but also generate revenue out of it. His goal is to make the surroundings more comfortable, conserved, and greener than it is today.

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