Huge volumes of COVID hospital waste threaten health – WHO


A logo is pictured at the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


  • Tens of thousands of tons of waste are piling up
  • Burning waste and poor management of landfills are a concern
  • Calls for the use of reusable and recyclable equipment

GENEVA, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Discarded syringes, used test kits and old vaccine vials from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tons of medical waste, threatening human health and the environment, according to a World Health Organization report said Tuesday.

The material, some of which could be infectious since the coronavirus can survive on surfaces, potentially exposes health care workers to burns, needlestick injuries and pathogenic germs, according to the report.

Communities near poorly managed landfills can also be affected by air contaminated by burning waste, poor water quality or disease-carrying pests, he added.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


The report calls for reforms and investment, including reducing the use of packaging that has sparked a plastic rush and using protective gear made from reusable and recyclable materials.

He estimates that some 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE), equivalent to the weight of several hundred blue whales, have been ordered through a UN portal up to November 2021 – most of which would have ended up as waste. .

The report also mentions some 140 million test kits that could generate 2,600 tons of mostly plastic waste and enough chemical waste to fill a third of an Olympic swimming pool.

In addition, he estimates that some 8 billion doses of vaccine administered worldwide produced 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of glass vials, syringes, needles and safety boxes.

The WHO report did not cite specific examples of where the most egregious accumulations occurred, but referred to challenges such as limited official treatment and disposal of waste in the rural India as well as large volumes of faecal sludge from quarantine facilities in Madagascar.

Even before the pandemic, around a third of healthcare facilities were not equipped to handle existing waste loads, the WHO said. This reached 60% in poor countries, he said.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bangalore and Emma Farge in Geneva; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Comments are closed.