A few months back, the world focused on avoiding the use of plastic and reducing plastic waste as it greatly contributes to pollution, causing severe harm to the environment. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, plastic items like PPE suits, masks, gloves, water bottles, shoe/headcover, etc. are proving to be the only protective shield for the front-line workers.
Leading medical professionals and scientists have come forward to enlighten the Indian citizens about the role of plastic items in preventing the spread of COVID-19 virus while ensuring its safe disposal and recycle.
Padma Shri Dr KK Aggarwal, Former President of the Indian Medical Association and President of Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania said, “To protect the medical workers from Covid-19 infection, we need protective gear which is made from an impermeable and non-porous material such as plastics. Hence, the currently used masks, gloves, protective shields for eyes/face, head & shoe cover, apron, etc. are made from plastics.
“Impermeable material stops viruses containing droplets from touching the skin and the viruses stay on the outer surface of the protective gear. It is also essential that healthcare workers change their personal protective equipment in every 8 hours and regularly decontaminate the hospital surfaces,” he added.
He also said that presently, 40 lakh health workers are fighting against the Covid-19 in India, and 20-25 lakh protective equipment is required every day to protect the health workers from contracting the disease.
Prof Ashok K Agarwal, President of Indian Association for Hospital Waste Management and Former Dean, IIHMR, New Delhi said that careless handling and disposal of medical waste can put healthcare workers at a higher risk of infection.
“All biomedical waste needs to be disposed of in colour-coded categories - yellow, red, white, and blue – as per the guidelines stipulated in the Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 and by the Centre of Pollution Control Board. These guidelines must be followed studiously to contain the COVID-19 infection. The government should ensure the availability of plastic garbage/disposal bags in hospitals, quarantined, and general households, so the waste can be collected and treated (medical waste) or recycled (general waste),” he added.
Dr Vijay Habbu, Adjunct Professor, Institute of Chemical Technology said, protective equipment such as masks, gloves, PPEs and plastic bags or bottles that were used in handling commodities such as grains, oil, water, etc. must not be carelessly thrown away. He suggested that it must be properly disposed of, for treatment or recycling.
“The earth is healing itself; it is an ideal time to cut down on non-ecofriendly human practices such as littering and utilize this time to strengthen the plastic waste management ecosystem in our country. Scientifically, all types of plastic products/equipment are recyclable, every Indian citizen must know this fact. The responsibility to ensure proper disposal of waste and source segregation is on every Indian citizen. It will help in preventing the highly hazardous practice of waste dumping in landfills/waste bodies and keep our earth clean and green,” Dr Habbu said.