The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alarm about the enormous amount of medical waste accumulated during the corona pandemic. This includes tens of thousands of tons of protective clothing requested through the United Nations.
The WHO points in a report to the increasing pressure on medical waste processing systems, such as hypodermic needles, used test kits and empty vaccine vials. This is a considerable amount of rubble because billions of corona vaccines have been administered worldwide, and people are being tested on a large scale. In addition, the many millions of discarded test kits contain both plastic and chemicals.
The report also estimates that between March 2020 and November 2021, personal protective equipment with a combined weight of some 87,000 tons was ordered through the UN. That is equivalent to the weight of hundreds of blue whales. But, unfortunately, those tools probably ended up mostly in the trash after use.
“It is essential that our health personnel have access to the right personal protective equipment,” said top WHO official Michael Ryan. “But it is also crucial to ensure that it can be used safely without negative impact on the environment.”
Even before the pandemic, many institutions would have struggled with getting rid of medical waste. The health organization is now coming up with a number of recommendations. For example, careful consideration should be given to when it is necessary to use personal protective equipment. For example, gloves are often used when vaccines are administered, while the WHO does not recommend this.
It is also advised to make protective equipment that can be reused, be packed less extensively or consist of material that can be degraded in an environmentally friendly way. In addition, investments should be made in better methods of processing medical waste and in the local production of such equipment for healthcare providers.