February 2, 2022

WHO: Dire need to deal with huge volumes of COVID-19 medical waste

Editor's Note

Tons of extra medical waste generated in response to COVID-19 has put tremendous strain on healthcare waste management systems, threatening human and environmental health, according to a February 1 World Health Organization (WHO) report.

In this global analysis WHO says:

  • A large share of 87,000 tons of personal protective equipment (PPE) procured between March 2020 and November 2021 is expected to end up in waste.
  • More than 140 million test kits have the potential to generate 2,600 tons of plastic and 731,000 L of chemical waste, equivalent to one-third of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
  • Some 8 billion vaccine doses administered globally have produced another 144,000 tons of waste in the form of glass vials, syringes, needles, and safety boxes.

WHO is calling for reform and additional investments, including reducing the use of packaging, using PPE more rationally, and investing in non-burn waste treatment technology.

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