As Covid-19 cases in district surge, so does the quantity of biomedical waste
The quantity of Covid-19-related biomedical waste being generated in the district has doubled over the past three weeks, increasing from about 400 kilograms per day on April 18 to 800 kilograms per day on May 8. Medical waste related to the diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19 patients now accounts for 17% of the daily medical waste produced in Gurugram, up from about 10% about three weeks ago. The rest is routine biomedical waste, which comes from outpatient departments, surgical wards and other clinics, to the tune of about 3.8 tonnes per day.
During this period, Gurugram saw 93 new cases of Covid-19, with the bulk of them being detected in the past week. Vikas Gehlot, spokesperson for Biotic Waste Management, the sole concessionaire for biomedical waste management in Gurugram district, said that they are expecting this number to rise exponentially over the next few months, given the present growth rate of the disease.
“It is likely that by the end of May or early June, the district will produce over a tonne of Covid-19 related biomedical waste every day. A single confirmed positive Covid-19 case creates 10 times more waste than your average patient. So even if the growth rate slows, just a few more cases will still lead to more waste,” Gehlot said.
However, Gehlot added that there is presently no cause for concern when it comes to the treatment and handling of such waste. “We have a capacity of 20 tonnes per day at our treatment facility in Sector 37. As such, the increase in quantity can be managed,” he added.
The district’s Covid-19 waste comes from 36 health care facilities, isolation wards and testing centres, in addition to quarantined homes. While a concessionaire directly collects Covid-19 waste from hospitals, testing centres and isolation wards, suspected or confirmed patients under home quarantine have been provided with yellow bags to dispose of possibly infected waste, such as head caps, masks, and tissues. The civil surgeon’s office is coordinating collection from these homes and quarantine centres. The waste is then sent to any of the four collection centres in the district, from where two biotic vehicles dedicated only to collecting Covid-19 waste make pick-ups. About 30 drivers and workers are involved in the collection of biomedical waste in the district.
However, sanitation workers and waste collectors at the common biomedical waste treatment facility (CBMWTF) in Sector 37 are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). “We are purchasing PPE privately, at a significantly higher cost than before. We have reached out to state and district authorities for help, but given the shortage of PPE in the market, we are prepared to continue buying the equipment ourselves,” Gehlot said.
Presently, the company has been procuring PPE from local vendors who have ramped up their production. “But quality and continuous supply of PPE is still a concern. We conduct quality tests of the PPE ourselves, and carry out site inspections of the factories before purchasing from them. This would not be a worry if we were able to get PPE through a government-regulated supplier,” Gehlot said.
The quantity of routine waste has dipped from about 5.5 tonnes in March to about 3.8 tonnes per day following the outbreak.