Impacts of Disposal PPE Waste on Environment and Its Management
B.Sc. in Textile Engineering
Department of Textile Engineering
BGMEA University of Fashion &Technology (BUFT)
Personal protective equipment – known as ‘PPE’ – is used to protect health care workers while performing specific tasks that might involve them encountering blood or body fluids that may contain some infectious agents (germs).
Personal protection equipment, or PPE, is an important part of the overall safety program of any medical facility. There are many different types of PPE out there ranging from gloves to full-body hazmat suits. In a lot of cases, PPE can be reused multiple times without any issues. In other situations, however, it will be just a one-time use item.
Impacts of Disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Waste on Environment:
Coronavirus lockdowns around the globe have led to a dramatic 5% drop in greenhouse gas emissions, according to UNCTAD estimates but not all measures to contain the pandemic have had a positive impact on the environment. Our streets, beaches and ocean have been hit by a tidal wave of COVID-19 waste including PPE like face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, gown etc.
Plastic pollution was already one of the greatest threats to our planet before the coronavirus outbreak. Now the sudden boom in the daily use of certain products to keep people safe and stop the disease is making things much worse.
Global sales of disposable face masks alone are set to skyrocket from an estimated $800 million in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020, according to business consulting firm Grand View Research.
Environmental pollution is feared to leap beyond control in the coming days as the government recently made it mandatory for everyone to wear face masks outside home without putting in place a system for their disposal. Studies suggest that face masks often contain plastics and other types of polymers alongside different materials. Authorities are relying on traditional waste management – landfill dumping or burning – for managing face mask and hand glove wastes and other personal protective and hygiene products whose use has dramatically increased because of COVID-19.
Once mainly used by healthcare providers, the products now found their way into every household, and in absence of a mechanism to collect them separately, they are getting mixed with everyday household waste.
With monsoon around the corner, the wastes, a large portion of which are single-use mask, is feared to get washed down to water bodies, clogging water drainages system on the way and further deteriorating the cities’ waterlogging problem. We are creating a big environmental problem if we fail to properly collect and dispose the wastes we are generating to protect our health.
Still the study found over half of Bangladesh’s 160 million people were already wearing single use synthetic surgical face masks, 30 per cent were using hand gloves, and 30 per cent used hand sanitizer. In the period studied, people used 455 million surgical masks, 1,216 million polythene hand gloves, 189 million surgical hand gloves, 49 million hand sanitizers.
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Medical wastes (including PPE) usually end up with regular waste in the landfills. Only a portion of medical waste is collected by private contractors to be disposed.
Waterlogged masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles and other coronavirus waste already are being found on our seabeds and washed up on our beaches, joining the day-to-day detritus in our ocean ecosystems.
Once released in the environment, plastics get fragmented and some of it become micro-plastics finding ways into air, water and earth. These could stay in the environment for a century or more and they are already in our food chain.
Disposal of PPE Waste Correctly and Safely Management:
Follow any training provided on how to safely dispose of materials in your premises. Your setting may have specific procedures in place with which you should be familiar and may provide you with specific equipment and substances for sanitization and disposal. You must wear protective gloves when handling waste. Do not touch anything other than the infectious waste once you have put them on, and make sure you remove and dispose of them hygienically once you’re done.
Procedures/Rules are: (which should follow)
1) Minimize contact, i.e. handle materials as little as possible and transfer them via routes that minimize exposure to others.
2) Discard materials into a suitable container or bag. It must conform to the required standards
3) Use bags that are marked or colored for infectious waste. This includes orange or yellow bags (or signs), and text or symbols indicating the bag contains hazardous waste for treatment or incineration.
4) Transfer non-disposable infectious materials safely to the sterilization department for decontamination. You must adhere to the local policy for cleaning the equipment.
5) Always use puncture-resistant containers sharps, as they will not leak.
6) Use pierce-proof waste containers and close them in between use for safety.
7) Never fill a bag or container more than ¾ full.
8) Never over fill waste receptacles.
9) Remove waste in accordance with local clinical waste disposal policy; it may be collected by the relevant authorities, removed by an infection control team, or incinerated.
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Whatever waste you are handling, it’s imperative that you follow the procedures instructed of you and minimize direct contact. This ensures you break a link in the chain of infection and stop the spread of infectious diseases.
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.