NGT directs state urban dept to develop action plan for safe disposal of used condom
The National Green Tribunal has directed the state urban department in Pune to create a plan for the proper disposal of used condoms following a petition by law students. The students raised concerns about the burning of non-biodegradable waste by sanitation workers, including used condoms, which causes pollution and spreads infectious diseases. The tribunal has given the department six months to submit an action plan. Condom manufacturers have been urged to provide leak-proof pouches for the disposal of used condoms.
PUNE Following a petition submitted by law students, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the state urban department to formulate a comprehensive plan for the proper disposal of used condoms in an order issued on November 22.
The petition was filed in 2018 by law students associated with Sahyog Trust who raised concerns about the neglected treatment of non-biodegradable waste.
Applicants Nikhil Vidyadhar Joglekar, Bodhi Sham Ramteke, Vaishnav Gajanan Ingole, Vikrant Anil Khare, Omkar Ajit Keni, and Shubham Deepak Biche under their collective entitled “Lawyers for Earth Justice” submitted in their application before the NGT that they have come across sanitation workers burning garbage along the roadside, which leads to air pollution.
These sanitation workers were found not wearing gloves and were made to segregate garbage which included used condoms. Because of this, instead of collecting them, they used to burn them, which led to pollution in the area.
These used condoms may spread infectious diseases such as leptospirosis, viral hepatitis, typhoid, etc. Flushing of these condoms down toilets also causes clogging of sewers, the applicants contended.
The petition was filed with the assistance of Adv Asim Sarode and Adv Shriya Awale against multiple entities, including condom manufacturing companies and government departments.
The NGT bench led by Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and Vijay Kulkarni in their order stated that with regards to the issue i.e. whether the disposal of used condoms is being done in accordance with the solid wastes (management and handling) Rules, 2016 and whether they need to be incinerated post their use in order to ensure that there is no health hazard from their disposal.
“We direct the department of urban development, state of Maharashtra, to prepare an action plan and submit it before the registry of the tribunal within six months. After receipt of the said action plan, the registry shall place the same before us for further necessary action and orders, if any,” the order stated.
A condom company in its submission before the NGT pointed out that, “...The allegation of the applicants that the condoms which are produced by the answering respondent are non-biodegradable is baseless, vague and unsubstantiated. It is the duty of respondents to provide waste pickers with protective gear, gloves, etc and provide them with adequate training to handle waste.”
Adv Sarode argued that condoms should be classified as ‘solid waste’ under the BioMedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, rather than being treated as plastic waste under the Plastics Rules, 2011.
The NGT further directed consumers to use leak-proof pouches provided by manufacturers for wrapping used condoms before disposing of them with dry waste.
The petitioners expressed disappointment in the NGT’s reliance on 2018 guidelines by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as a solution. While acknowledging the validity of the demand for condom manufacturers to provide special pouches, Adv Sarode expressed scepticism about the implementation of solid waste disposal norms by pollution control boards and municipalities.
The CPCB which has been made a party in the case stated that the consumers are required to wrap the sanitary waste (herein condoms) in leak-proof pouches provided by the producer and dispose of the same along with dry waste or keep the waste in a separate bin provided at the time of door to door collection by the local agency.
If the separate bin is not provided by the authorised waste pickers, the wrappers and pouches should be placed in the dry waste bin by the authorised waste picker.
It is further made clear that if the producer does not provide a wrapper or pouch for the used sanitary waste, such waste should be wrapped in old newspaper and placed in a dry-waste bin.
The responsibility of performing this act, observing compliance with CPCB guidelines, lies on the shoulders of the waste generator, they stated in their submission.