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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 73-74

The rising biohazard of discarded protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic: Possible solutions

1 Department of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, AIIMS, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India
2 Dr Smilez Dental Clinic, Puducherry, India

Date of Submission25-Nov-2020
Date of Decision05-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance20-May-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Satvinder Singh Bakshi
Department of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, AIIMS, Mangalagiri, Guntur - 522 503, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jphpc.jphpc_15_20

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How to cite this article:
Bakshi SS, Bakshi S. The rising biohazard of discarded protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic: Possible solutions. J Public Health Prim Care 2021;2:73-4

How to cite this URL:
Bakshi SS, Bakshi S. The rising biohazard of discarded protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic: Possible solutions. J Public Health Prim Care [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 5];2:73-4. Available from: http://www.jphpc.com/text.asp?2021/2/3/73/333897

Dear Editor,

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the health systems across the globe. Wearing of masks by the general population and usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, shoes, caps, and goggles by healthcare professionals has become the new-normal. On many occasions, even the general public is also seen wearing latex or plastic gloves and face shields. However, there is little, if any, information for the general public on the safe disposal of this equipment.

Since the virus can survive on the surface of this equipment, the safe disposal of this protective gear is of paramount importance as they can serve as a reservoir of infection. Besides, they pose a risk to people handling routine household garbage as they are not equipped to handle this kind of infectious waste.

There is an additional concern regarding the amount of plastic waste being generated due to the usage of this protective gear. A recent study from University College London's Plastic Waste Innovation Hub has cited a single-use face mask each day for a year would generate 66,000 tons of contaminated plastic waste.[1]

In Wuhan, there was a massive increase in medical waste from between 40 and 50 tons/day before the outbreak to about 247 tons on March 1.[2] This was also seen in cities such as Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, where the production of biomedical waste increased by 154–280 tons per day.[3]

Some possible solutions to this problem are:

  1. The use of washable reusable mask offers a possible solution; however, these cloth masks are not as effective as the standard masks in preventing transmission of the coronavirus infection. There is an urgent need to develop new washable and reusable face masks for both the general public and healthcare workers which are as effective as the present masks
  2. An information campaign to educate the general public on how to rationally use “safety gear” and safe disposal of biomedical waste must be undertaken
  3. Mobile biomedical waste treatment systems such as ultraviolet radiation chambers can be installed near hospitals and healthcare facilities; this will reduce the risk of handling and transport of this biomedical waste
  4. The biomedical waste can be presorted and disinfected to improve their proper disposal
  5. Governments worldwide should encourage the development and use of bioplastics with identical physical properties to other commonly used plastics, such as high durability and waterproof. These bioplastics may be used for making face shields, respirators, syringes, etc.[4]
  6. The general public and those not exposed to high-contamination zones may be encouraged to use reusable PPE, instead of disposal after a single-use.

The pandemic is here to stay for some more time, and the amount of biomedical waste that will be generated is only going to increase further. There is an urgent need to develop more innovative solutions in handling and disposal of this biomedical waste before the damage to the environment becomes irreversible.

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Conflicts of interest

  References Top

Allison AL, Ambrose-Dempster E, Domenech Aparsi T, Bawn M, Casas Arredondo M, Chau C, et al. The environmental dangers of employing single-use face masks as part of a COVID-19 exit strategy. UCL Open: Environment Preprint 2020. DOI: 10.14324/111.444/000031.v1.  Back to cited text no. 1
Si ZH, Li Y.Medical waste treatment in Wuhan from emergency to stability. Xin Hua Net 2020. Available from: www.xinhuanet.com/local/2020-04/01/c_1125796126.htm [in Chinese].  Back to cited text no. 2
Asian Development Bank. Managing Infectious Medical Waste during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Asian Development Bank; 2020. Available from: https://www.adb.org/publications/managing-medical-waste-covid19. [Last accessed on 2020 Aug 06].  Back to cited text no. 3
Patrício Silva AL, Prata JC, Walker TR, Campos D, Duarte AC, Soares AM, et al. Rethinking and optimising plastic waste management under COVID-19 pandemic: Policy solutions based on redesign and reduction of single-use plastics and personal protective equipment. Sci Total Environ 2020;742:140565.  Back to cited text no. 4


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