Even as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been assuring proper disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves etc at hospitals, labs and quarantine centres, there seem to be no guidelines for common citizens on how and where to dispose of their used masks and gloves. However, citizens across Mumbai have complained masks, gloves etc strewn carelessly on roads, especially outside crematoriums, posing a risk for humans as well as animals.
On July 2, BMC, through its social media campaign, appealed to the citizens to dispose of used mask and gloves responsibly. The campaign on twitter asks people in which bin a used mask should go. The civic body has appealed to the public to carefully wrap them in papers before disposing of them in a hazardous waste bin.
Not just this but many NGOs and environmentalists have been creating awareness on the issues since March. Wildlife Welfare Association (WWA), an NGO working in Thane & Mumbai, had started a campaign asking people to be responsible and dispose of masks and gloves properly to avoid risking lives of animals who might get exposed to virus accidentally due to their scavenging behaviour.
"All this is not followed and BMC is just not bothered about this. I had gone to the Dahanukarwadi crematorium in Kandivali (West) recently. There is only one bin (blue) where everything is dumped, no red bin, like shown in BMC's twitter photo, was kept. Even the gloves which people wore were discarded there. I have not seen any red bin anywhere in the city. In fact, many people had even thrown their used masks carelessly outside the dustbin," said Utsav Makwana, a resident of Kandivali.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has given detailed guidelines about the handling of COVID-19 waste from hospitals, care centres, quarantined buildings, containment zones, and pathology laboratories.
“According to CPCB guidelines, when a person has COVID-19, all his contacts have to be home-quarantined, and their houses are to be treated the same way as the patient’s, but waste from neighbouring houses are mixed with the rest, we are working on this and will act strictly to stop this practice,” said a senior BMC official from Solid Waste Management.
He added, "We strictly ensure all quarantine centres and containment zones get yellow bags for biomedical wastes (BMW) and black ones for other solid waste. These wastes are collected by workers in protective gears and eventually incinerated in Deonar."
Based on the guidelines, the BMC has distributed yellow bags in quarantined households for residents to dispose of used masks and gloves. The bags are sent to the biomedical waste treatment facility at Deonar for incineration after spraying disinfectant. All conservancy staff handling yellow and black bags are given protective gear and disinfectants.
Other waste from the quarantined homes and neighbouring buildings is treated as solid waste, collected in black bags, disinfected and given a ‘deep burial’ in a pit at Deonar dumping ground after being sanitised with bleach. The transportation vehicles in both cases are sanitised immediately.
Meanwhile, waste generated from pathology labs and hospitals is put into double bags, loaded into separate trucks for COVID-19 waste (the bags and the trucks are labelled ‘biomedical waste’), transported to the Deonar facility, sprayed with disinfectant and burnt immediately. While COVID-19 waste is strictly disposed of at the waste treatment facility at Deonar run by a private contractor, waste from containment zones is being collected by BMC.
The private company, SMS, has deployed 15 trucks in Mumbai for COVID-19 waste, each with a driver and labourer with personal protective equipment. It picks up five to six tonnes of COVID-19 waste and about 10 tonnes of other biomedical waste every day.
Doctors from the private and civic-run hospitals have said they have received guidelines from the civic body for disposing of the personal protective equipment (PPE) after using it. They are not randomly allowed to dump the PPE anywhere at the hospital. “We are following the guidelines of the BMC and we have to sanitise the PPE first and then under the guidance and supervision of a trained observer, it is been removed. We also ensure that infectious waste containers are available in the doffing area for safe disposal of PPE,” said a doctor.
“Once PPE is removed it is kept in a bag and then disposed of in the yellow bag where all the PPE used by doctors are disposed of. Later this bag is disposed of,” he added.
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