For two years, waste linked to Covid-19 has been accumulating: plastics, masks and protective gloves. Indeed, this mountain of waste worries the World Health Organization since it could create risks for health and the environment.
A new report claims that the United Nations shipped some 87,000 tons of personal protective equipment between March 2020 and November 2021 around the world to help countries, especially the most disadvantaged.
In this equipment sent, there are more than 140 million test kits which can generate approximately 2,600 tonnes of non-infectious waste (made up of plastic) and 731,000 liters of chemical waste (i.e. one third of an Olympic swimming pool).
We know that more than 8 billion doses have been administered, producing 144,000 tonnes of additional waste consisting of syringes, needles, etc.
Around 97% of plastic waste from Covid tests was incinerated.
The waste that poses a problem is gloves, as these have been used in excess and represent the largest proportion of purchased personal protective equipment waste.
All of this is only the tip of the iceberg since these figures do not take into account the purchases of medical products made outside the framework of the United Nations, nor the waste produced directly by the populations.
According to a study, between March 2020 and August 2021, 26,000 tonnes of waste (i.e. a herd of 4,500 elephants) would be found in the oceans.
OMS also insists that more than 30% of healthcare facilities worldwide (and 60% in poor countries) are not properly equipped to handle all this waste. This situation remains dangerous for caregivers, exposed on the front line, but also for populations living near waste destruction sites.
Air pollution, deterioration of water quality, explosion in the number of pests, … all of this can significantly lower their quality of life.
It is therefore imperative to find solutions now and also in the long term.
OMS offers solutions aimed at drastically reducing waste: the use of reusable and compostable masks; the creation of smaller and more sustainable packaging; the manufacture of equipment based on renewable materials. They also believe that sending medical waste to landfill should be a last resort only.