Bio-medical waste: wake up, B’luru

Low public participation in scientific and safe waste management has been underscored yet again with Bengaluru’s residents showing little or no interest in segregating bio-medical waste. Around 98% of the biomedical waste generated by households is reportedly being dumped in dry waste bins. People are dumping soiled sanitary napkins and diapers as well as used syringes and needles, and blood-soaked cotton and bandages in their dry waste bins. Bio-medical waste is hazardous to human and animal health. Those handling such waste can contract deadly diseases, including AIDS and hepatitis. Even a few drops of blood on a bandage can infect a person who handles it without gloves. Besides, when left untreated or not scientifically disposed of but left lying around in landfills or on roads, bio-medical waste contaminates the environment. Hence, bio-medical waste must be segregated at source so that it can be disposed of safely through incineration and other methods. Some may throw a few wads of used cotton into their dry waste bin believing that this wouldn’t impact the larger process of waste segregation and disposal. This is a misconception. Mixing even a little hazardous bio-medical waste with organic or dry waste makes the entire waste unsafe, underscoring the importance of segregation of waste at source.

Awareness that biomedical waste should be safely disposed of has grown in recent years. However, it is such waste generated by healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, laboratories and blood donation and vaccination camps that has been the focus of attention of pollution control boards and waste management authorities. The Bio-medical Waste Management Rules 2016 doesn’t even mention such waste generated by households. This exclusion of household generated bio-medical waste from the purview of rules and policies must end, especially since such waste from households is increasing with the expansion in the home healthcare sector.

Door-to-door collection of solid waste is either not carried out separately for bio-medical waste or, if done, is not carried out on a daily basis. Since napkins and diapers give out an unpleasant odour, people prefer to get rid of these daily and so dump them in either dry waste or organic waste bins. If collection of bio-medical waste is done daily, residents may be more willing to segregate such waste at source. Importantly, public awareness on the issue should be increased. Just as hospitals and other health facilities have begun to fall in line with regard to segregating their bio-medical waste, households can be convinced to do this. The 2016 Rules need to put in place procedures and norms for segregation, transport, monitoring and safe disposal of bio-medical waste. Our health would improve if bio-medical waste is dealt with scientifically.

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Bio-medical waste: wake up, B’luru

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