Pandemic leads to huge mountain of medical waste

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Disposable gloves, FFP2 mask and used corona antigen test kits lie on the street in front of a corona test center. © Kay Nietfeld/dpa

Disposable gloves, gowns, test kits: According to the WHO, more than 200,000 tons of waste have accumulated worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic. Protective masks for private use are not included in the estimates.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as a result of the corona pandemic, more than 200,000 tons of medical waste have accumulated worldwide – much of it plastic waste.

The UN organization based in Geneva called for strategies on Tuesday to protect people and the environment from poorly disposed of protective suits, test kits and vaccination paraphernalia.

According to the WHO, the billions of vaccinations since the beginning of the pandemic have generated at least 144,000 tons of used needles, syringes and collection containers. In addition, 87,000 tons of protective clothing were delivered by the United Nations alone between March 2020 and November 2021. Corona tests contain up to 2,600 additional tons of waste and 731,000 liters of chemical waste. Protective masks for private use are not included in the estimates.

According to the WHO, even before the pandemic, a third of all healthcare facilities were not able to dispose of their waste properly. The additional Covid waste poses a health and environmental risk to medical workers and people living near landfills, it said.

The WHO is now pushing for greener packaging, reusable protective clothing and investment in recycling systems. “Covid-19 has revealed to the world the gaps and failings in the production, use and disposal of health products,” said Maria Neira, WHO’s Environment Officer. dpa

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