Medical waste in pandemic-hit Philippines: As much as 2 million sacks of rice

Medical waste in pandemic-hit Philippines: As much as 2 million sacks of rice

MANILA, Philippines — As COVID-19 cases continued to rise a year into the pandemic, the Philippines also saw a surge in the volume of medical waste, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday.

“There’s a surge in hospital waste and solid waste,” DENR Undersecretary for Climate Change Analiza The said in an interview with CNN Philippines Wednesday.

According to the DENR’s Hazardous Waste Management Section, the country generated 52,237.606 tons of medical waste from April 2020 to March 31, 2021. The figure was based on the special or online permits to transport issued by the department.

“That’s about two million sacks of rice already generated,” Teh said.

Of the figure, only around 27% or 14,000 metric tons has been treated, she added.

Infectious healthcare waste, according to the Department of Health, includes all medical waste generated in the management of suspect, probable and confirmed COVID-19 patients. These include protective gear, gloves, swabs, test tubes and syringes.

Proper disposal of medical waste

The DENR official stressed the importance of proper disposal of medical waste.

Infectious waste must be discarded in an appropriate waste receptacle. The waste bins must be properly sealed prior to their transport to the hospital’s temporary facility. Some facilities disinfect their waste at source.

Medical waste may be stored temporarily in designated locations, away from patients and public spaces before it is picked up for treatment.

As typically practiced, medical waste in the country is disinfected through steam sterilization. Once treated, medical waste is then transported to a licensed sanitary landfill for final disposal.

Teh also called on local government units to be “more conscientious” in addressing the problem with hazardous waste.

The DENR urged households to dispose of used face masks, gloves and other protective gear in a separate container and to inform garbage collectors of its potentially infectious content.

Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, already requires the mandatory segregation of solid waste at source into containers labeled as “compostable,” “non-recyclable,” “recyclable,” or “special waste.”

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