COVID-19 and Municipal Solid Waste Management

Habiba Akther Happy

  COVID- 19 outbreak is one of the biggest alarming medical concern of the century, whole world is suffering desperately. Most of the countries are under lockdown. Social distancing is one of the best practices to avoid covid-19 infection. Environmentally sound management of the solid waste one of the key challenges during normal times in Bangladesh. During crisis of covid-19 pandemic, these challenges are more alarming because the amount of generating wastes are being increased. As far as I know, the lack of proper municipal solid waste management in Bangladesh has already created many serious environmental related problems.  Before pandemic, if we look at the survey of generating solid waste in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Approximately 5000 tons of waste is being generated in Dhaka city every day. During covid-19, these wastes are being much generated, approximately 206 tons of waste relating to covid -19 is being produced every day in Dhaka city. 

In response to covid-19 hospitals, healthcare facilities and individuals are being carried more waste than usual, including masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment that could be infected with the covid-19 virus. From my point of view the municipal solid waste management is actually alarming part during these days, especially the waste which is being produced by the quarantine and isolated infected persons. The quarantine and isolated persons are generating immense amount of Covid -19 infected waste which is going to be mixed in municipal waste.

What is happened when COVID-19 infected waste mix-up municipal solid waste?

In my opinion, as covid-19 is a novel virus. Covid-19 is going to carry a greater generation and dealings of households and personal health related products that could be single use and put down valuable resources like plastics, textiles, metals etc. We know that covid 19 can survive different surface like plastics, waste materials, wood, clothes etc. The exact life span of this novel virus is not confirmed, research is going on, some virologist has suggested that it can survive up to 9 days at different surfaces and material.    

Bangladesh is over populated country. It seems to me that municipal solid waste is not properly managed. Now covid- 19 infected waste is being added along with municipal solid waste. As covid – 19 spreads so fast in whole world. Among them Bangladesh with limited access to medical support. That’s why maximum covid – 19 affected people are taking self-medicate at home. Whenever any infected and home quarantine person dispose the infected waste with the municipal waste then the whole waste is being affected by covid 19. This act may infect the municipal workers along with their families.

If we don’t properly manage of covid-19 infected medical waste till now then it could be uncontrolled dumping, conducting to public health risks and to open burring or uncontrolled incineration, release to the toxins in the Environment. So that ecosystem quality, biodiversity, air quality is going to be negatively affected. Besides other wastes are playing role to reach water sources and add to riverine and marine pollution.

Raw sewage and partially- treated waste water is a medium for spreading diseases and dynamic means for COVID-19 to spread faster. For example, in areas where sanitation is lower or where the communities are exposed to open sewer and black water. COVID-19 brings additional challenges with increasing use of medical products mask and gloves which is made of plastics, textiles and other single use products that are discharge in the open environment or drainage system. The massive number of plastics, microplastics pollution in wastewater have been already contributing the challenging part in Bangladesh.

How can we take step for Precaution to dispose the covid -19 infected waste?

First of all, every people must be aware for themselves, their families, societies, and countries.  The government have to implement the rules and legislations for the disposal of the waste which is being generated by the home quarantine and covid infected person.

Must be avoid to mix the covid-19 infected waste and municipal solid waste together.

The infected waste should be kept separate and put on bag then closed bag by hand knot

Before hand over the waste-to-waste disposal agency the hand knot bag must be placed in another bag.

Quarantine and infected person should not use of disposable things like, water bottle, glass and plate etc.

Proper management of household medical waste can be protected from spread of covid-19 virus.

I think, Sound practice to dispose the covid-19 infected waste, It seems to me that the covid-19 infected waste must be collected by the medical waste management agencies instead of municipal waste agencies because they have better infrastructure and well-known workers to handle such types of waste.

Medical waste management agencies collect the waste and dispose through incineration process. The incineration is a waste treatment process which involves combustion of organic substance of waste materials.

Be safe, follow the instruction which is given by the Government time to time. Home quarantine and isolated person must try to reduce the waste, don’t use disposable things. Handover the waste to government authorized agency in double layered sealed and sanitized bag.

Don’t dispose the waste in open space or any other place. In case of non-availability of waste collection agency, it would be better to contact the local administration and inform about the situation. This small effort will prove as a mile stone to break the chain of COVID-19. These wastes play a massive role for environmental threats, may create deadly and unwanted health hazards if not soundly management.

“Be a part of solution, not a part of pollution”

Every element of the environment is linked to one another. When any one element of the environment is polluted then whole environment is affected as well as human being. We have to understand this interconnected relation of the Environment and need to be more serious about not only covid-19 waste but also any other municipal waste management that we are being generated in our day-to-day life. As a human being, we can do everything. We can create a healthy Environment where we can soundly live.

Author is a Student of Environmental Science & Engineering Department at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh., 


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