The Blue Green Blog

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The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly outgrown the perceived threat of plastic pollution, leading to a sudden shift in the hierarchisation of values, i.e., where health is considered as a value in spite of environmental care, which shows a clear decrease in its perceived importance.

Cities facing high COVID-19 incidence rates are struggling to manage the dramatic increase in medical waste production by healthcare facilities. For instance, the King Abdullah University Hospital in Jordan produced tenfold higher medical waste (~650 kg per day, when considering an occupation of 95 COVID-19 patients) than the average generation rate during the regular operational day of the hospital.

A drastic increase in medical waste was also reported in other parts of the world, such as in Catalonia, Spain, and in China, with an increment of 350% and 370%, respectively. The dramatic increase in medical waste is overloading the capacity of each country or municipality, to manage/treat it adequately.

Due to the persistence and high contagiousness of SARS-CoV-2 virus, many countries are classifying all hospital waste as infectious, which require to be incinerated under high temperatures, allowing sterilisation, followed by landfilling of residual ash. While some countries or municipalities will manage alternatives to treat medical waste properly, others (with less economic and waste management resources) might be forced to apply inappropriate management strategies, which will likely entail adverse effects to the environment, human health and safety.