Need to follow medical waste management rules strictly during COVID-19: Health Ministry

CPCB issued separate guidelines for ‘Handling, Treatment & Disposal of bio-medical waste generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of COVID-19 patients’ which gives guidance on the management of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste including used masks and gloves

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New Delhi: As informed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), disposal of bio-medical waste including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit worn by healthcare professionals as well as the general public became a challenge during the on-going Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This was stated by the Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare), Ashwini Kumar Choubey in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
The minister, however, didn’t provide any data as he pointed out that since public health is a State subject, information relating to an increase in COVID-19 cases among individuals employed in garbage collection and disposal, due to mismanagement in the disposal of bio-medical waste including PPE kit, is not centrally maintained.
As per Bio-medical Waste Management (BMWM) Rule, 2016, waste generated from Healthcare Facilities is required to be treated and disposed of as per provisions under said rules. CPCB has also prepared guidelines, which gives guidance on Handling, Treatment & Disposal of bio-medical waste in line with provisions under BMWM Rules, 2016.
Further, CPCB issued separate guidelines for ‘Handling, Treatment & Disposal of bio-medical waste generated during Treatment/Diagnosis/Quarantine of COVID-19 patients’ which gives guidance on the management of COVID-19 related bio-medical waste including used masks and gloves. These guidelines were initially issued on 19th March and later revised on 17th July 2020.
As per CPCB Guidelines, used PPEs like face shields, goggles, hazmat suit, plastic coverall, used masks, head cover, shoe cover etc. generated from COVID-19 isolation wards at Healthcare Facilities shall be segregated and sent to Common Facilities for disposal as per Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 (BMWM Rules). However, used PPEs like masks and gloves generated in Common Households, Commercial Establishments, Institutions, etc., are required to store separately for minimum 72 hours for disposal along with solid waste after cutting or shredding. Such shredded used masks from the household can be collected as dry solid waste by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
Guidelines issued by CPCB have been circulated to all stakeholders and specific Directions were also issued by CPCB to all State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/ Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) to ensure compliance.
Many additional measures have been taken by CPCB for improvement of the management of bio-medical waste during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to monitor COVID-19 related bio-medical waste, CPCB developed COVID-19 waste tracking App named “COVID19BWM”. Both Android Mobile and Web versions of software application were designed for waste generators, CBWTF Operators, SPCBs/PCCs and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). 1st version of the App. has been introduced and a demonstration was given to SPCBs/PCCs and other stakeholders in May, 2020. SPCBs and CBWTFs were directed to ensure usage of the Tracking App. CPCB vide a letter dated 21st June 2020 issued Show Cause Notice to 106 CBWTFs for not using the COVID19BWM tracking App.
Directions under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act were issued in July 2020 to all the SPCBs/PCCs to ensure compliance to CPCB guidelines for effective management of bio-medical waste. However, CPCB has also created a separate page on its website for dissemination of awareness on the management of COVID-19 related waste, including safe disposal of masks and PPEs by the general public.