The COVID-19 pandemic is generating tons of medical waste

Waste contaminated with body fluids or other infectious materials is becoming a growing concern for hospitals as they brace themselves for a wave of patients sick with COVID-19 in the US. Patients and health professionals quickly go through medical supplies and disposable personal protective equipment, such as masks. Ultimately, all that used material piles up as medical waste that must be safely discarded.

In Wuhan, where the new coronavirus first appeared, officials not only had to build new hospitals for the influx of patients; they needed one new facility for medical waste and also deploy 46 mobile waste treatment plants. Hospitals there produced six times as much medical waste at the height of the outbreak as before the crisis broke out. The daily production of medical waste reached 240 tons, about the weight of an adult blue whale.

According to medical waste company Stericycle, which processed £ 1.8 billion worth of medical waste worldwide in 2018, there is already an increase in personal protective equipment waste in the US. And some things that are not usually considered medical waste, such as food, now need to be treated more carefully after contact with a COVID-19 patient. Stericycle did not provide numbers for how much of an increase it is seeing so far, adding that he believes it has the capacity to handle the swell and can add shifts to the company’s 50 treatment centers in the US, If necessary. In addition, the decline in elective operations may offset some of the increase in waste we see as a result of the pandemic, a Stericycle spokesperson said. The edge.

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“It’s a rapidly changing environment at the moment, and predicting volumes is challenging,” Jennifer Koenig, Vice President of Corporate Communications, wrote in an email to The edge. “We are closely monitoring the situation with all relevant authorities to determine the next steps.”

The CDC says that medical waste from COVID-19 can be treated the same way as ordinary medical waste. Regulations on how to handle that waste vary by location and can be managed by the state’s health and environmental departments, as well as by the occupational safety and health administration and the Department of Transportation. To ensure that contaminated waste from health care facilities does not harm the public before it goes to a landfill, it is usually incinerated, sterilized with steam or chemically disinfected.

There is more to it than medical center waste. The disease is spread across hospitals. Some people with minor symptoms recover at home. Others who are asymptomatic may not know that the waste they throw away may be contaminated. That means that people may generate a lot of virus-laden waste. That’s a concern for plumbing workers, as the virus can last up to a day on cardboard and longer on metal and plastic, according to a study of the virus under laboratory conditions.

But if waste is properly packaged rather than released and employees wear personal protective equipment, especially gloves, there should be no risk of contracting the virus, says David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America, The edge. Practicing social distance on the job, including keeping people at an appropriate distance, can also help reduce the risks of plumbing workers, says Elise Paeffgen, an Alston & Bird partner who deals with medical waste issues.

People who handle healthcare waste in particular should wear appropriate equipment, including boots, aprons, long-sleeved dresses, thick gloves, masks, and safety glasses or face shields, according to World Health Organization recommendations. Fortunately, protective efforts seem to have paid off so far. “There is no evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during treatment of health care waste has led to the transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” said a March 19. technical instructions from the WHO. As the pandemic grows, waste, and keeping that waste safe and secure, will continue to be a challenge for communities until the crisis is over.

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