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Bio-medical waste goes up in central districts

The stress on hygiene and sanitation during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in bio-medical waste (BMW) generation in the central districts of Tamil Nadu.

According to theCentral Pollution Control Board(CPCB) andother reports, more than 6000 tonnes of COVID-19 BMW was generated between March 2020 and May 2021 in the State.

Colour-coded bags with disposable masks, PPE kits, bed linen, and single-use medical tools such as syringes and glass phials, are commonly seen near hospitals and clinics nearly everywhere these days, as regional healthcare providers ramp up their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for safe treatment of COVID-19.

The utilisation of use-and-throw materials has ballooned in cities like Thanjavur and Tiruchi where hospitals cater to a bigger regional intake of patients.

“The volume of discarded masks and PPE kits has definitely increased during the pandemic. Before COVID-19, we used to collect around one and a half tonnes of BMW per day. Today it has doubled to three tonnes,” R. Santharam, managing partner, Medicare Enviro Systems based in Thanjavur, told The Hindu.

Mr. Santharam’s company is a common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility (CBMWTDF), that handles BMW from the districts of Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Ariyalur, Pudukottai and Sivagangai. It is one of 10 such facilities authorised by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to handle BMW in the State.

“Before COVID, winter used to be a peak season for BMW generation, because of flu and fevers. Now since doctors are giving similar treatments for most ailments [as COVID-19], waste has gone up,” said Mr. Santharam.

Private hospitals, especially the larger corporate franchises, tend to generate more waste, he added. “They have begun to use disposable uniforms and bed linen instead of reusable cloth alternatives. Though it is called ‘non-woven cloth’, the fabric is actually a type of plastic that can be incinerated only at very high temperatures. We try and combine it with other BMW to minimise air pollution,” said Mr. Satharam.

Dealing with 900 hospitals and 1500 small clinics on a daily basis, the company further sorts the waste before incineration at its facility in Sengipatti village.

Government hospitals and primary health centres in the region also use the company’s services.

The pandemic has created a new kind of environmental crisis through BMW, say ecology experts. “The effects of climate change are already upon us, because of the challenges presented by the pandemic. But we can build a sustainable environment only by creating a circular bio-economy that reuses at least a part of our resources to reduce emissions. It is a difficult process, but we have to work towards a sustainable solution,” said M. Premalatha, professor and head, Department of Energy and Environment, National Institute of Technology – Tiruchi (NITT). The Hindu

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