Govt extends deadline for adhering to bio-medical waste disposal rules to next year
Biomedical waste includes syringes, needles, cotton swabs, vials that may contain bodily fluids and spread infections.environment Updated: Mar 20, 2018 19:22 IST
The Union environment ministry has extended deadlines for various provisions under the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016, to ensure that hospitals and clinics are not in violation of the norms.
“We do not want the hospitals to shut down, we want to improve compliance,” Manoj Gangeya, a senior official at the environment ministry, said of the changes that were notified on Friday.
The amendments extend the deadline for hospitals and clinics to phase out chlorinated plastic bags by a year to March 27, 2019. The government has also provided an extension of two years for hospitals and clinics to upload annual reports on their websites containing details of biomedical waste generation and disposal.
Biomedical waste includes syringes, needles, cotton swabs, vials that may contain bodily fluids and spread infections. Chlorinated plastic bags are widely used to store biomedical waste but are difficult to dispose off with the rest of the waste. Incineration at lower temperatures may lead to release of carcinogens.
The amended rules also give hospitals and clinics one more year to implement a barcoding system that helps track what kind of waste is generated and how it is disposed off.
The total bio-medical waste generation in the country is 484 tonnes per day from 1,68,869 hospitals and clinics, out of which 447 tonnes per day are treated, according to official data. However, experts said this was an underestimation as there was little systematic tracking of biomedical waste generation.
Officials and activists working on the ground say implementation has been a challenge. A senior official at the central pollution control board (CPCB), who was not authorised to speak to the media, said that some stakeholders argued that there are no alternatives to chlorinated plastic bags. Blood bags have been exempted in the amended rules because there is no other way to store blood, the official said.
“In the case of chlorinated plastic bags, ensuring the availability of non-chlorinated plastic bags has been a major roadblock with “a lack of supply from industry to meet the demand from healthcare facilities across the country,” Kavita Yadav, at the NGO, Toxics Link, said.
Implementing the bar coding system is hindered by the absence of internet connection in remote places, according to Yadav.
Yadav said allowing use of puncture proof and leak proof plastic containers for glass waste like vials is a positive development. Field inspections had shown that use of cardboard was inconvenient because it was prone to fungal infection and rotting, she said.