As if the pandemic costing thousands of lives and bludgeoning the global economy wasn’t enough, the current crisis is about to get worse. Social media users around the world have been posting pictures and videos of a cleaner world as people stay locked in their homes; some even saying that maybe there is a silver lining to this health crisis. But this ‘break’ for Mother Nature is going to be short-lived as a mountain of pollution in the form of biomedical waste is expected to descend on the planet.
According to a 2018 joint report by Assocham and Velocity, the total quantity of medical waste generated in India was 550 tonne/day and projected to increase to 775.5 tonne/day by 2022. However, with the current turn of events, this figure might seem understated. Over the past two months, we have seen a huge rise in production of gloves, sanitisers, masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) in general, which will inevitably lead to a great influx of rubber and plastic back into a system where eco-friendly materials were slowly but surely gaining prominence.
What’s even more alarming is that, despite special guidelines from Central Pollution Control Board for disposal of waste from isolation wards, labs and collections centres, there have been several instances of rules being flouted. That puts not only sanitation workers at risk, but raises the spectre of widespread environmental pollution. Experts believe demand for PPE including masks, gloves and sanitisers is likely to sustain till the first quarter of 2021. So, while we post pictures of clean streets and clear skies, it’s only fair that carelessly discarded masks or gloves also get their due attention.