A World Health Organization report released on Tuesday warned that discarded syringes, used test kits, and old vaccine bottles from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, endangering human health and the environment.
According to the paper, the substance might expose health workers to burns, needle-stick injuries, and disease-causing microorganisms, with a fraction of it potentially infectious due to coronavirus’ ability to live on surfaces.
Communities near poorly-managed landfills may be harmed by contaminated air from burning waste, poor water quality, or disease-carrying bugs, according to the report.
The research asks for change and investment, including a reduction in packaging, which has resulted in a rush for plastic, as well as the usage of protective gear made of reusable and recyclable materials.
It is estimated that up to November 2021, 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE), the weight of several hundred blue whales, was ordered through a United Nations gateway, the majority of which is assumed to have ended up as waste.
According to the analysis, 140 million test kits have the potential to produce 2,600 tonnes of primarily plastic garbage and enough chemical waste to fill one-third of an Olympic swimming pool.
It’s also estimated that the 8 billion vaccine doses given around the world resulted in 144,000 tonnes of waste in the form of glass vials, syringes, needles, and safety boxes.
The WHO report did not cite specific locations where the most severe accumulations occurred, but it did mention difficulties such as insufficient formal waste treatment and disposal in rural India and enormous amounts of faecal sludge from quarantine facilities in Madagascar.
According to the WHO, over a third of healthcare institutions were not equipped to handle existing waste burdens even before the pandemic. According to the report, this figure may be as high as 60% in underdeveloped countries.