Bio-Medical Waste Management – UPSC GS2

Utility: Direct question can be asked on this topic due to increased bio-medical waste generation during COVID.
  • Around 23 of the 35 states and Union Territories follow deep burial methods restricted by the Government of India.
  • 70% of the states do not have a well-established system for monitoring a typical Biomedical Waste processing facility. Only 12 states have upgraded according to the new emission regulations.
  • According to the environment ministry, nearly 146 tonnes of biomedical waste is generated per day in the country due to diagnostic activities and treatment of Covid-19 patients.
  • According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the quantity of Biomedical wastes generated per day in the country has almost doubled from 7.22 lakh kg in pre-Covid times to nearly 14 lakh kg now. This rise in waste generation is directly related to the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
What is biomedical waste?
  • Bio-medical waste means any waste generated during diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals or in research activities.
  • Management of biomedical waste is an integral part of infection control and hygiene programs.
  • Without proper treatment, these medical wastes can create an adverse impact on the environment and public health.
Only about 10% – 25% of BMW is hazardous, and the remaining 75% – 95% is non-hazardous. So, the segregation of biomedical waste is the key to its management.
Biomedical waste management rules in India
  • In July 1998 the government of India notified the biomedical waste management rules. There was modification of rules in 2000, 2003, and 2011.
  • Indian government released revised Biomedical Waste Management rules in 2016. The salient features of this rule are,
    • Expansion of the ambit: The scope of the rules have been expanded to include various health camps such as vaccination camps, blood donation camps, and surgical camps
    • Role of State governments: The State Government has to provide land for setting up a common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facility (CBMWTF). Apart from that, the State government will also have to set up a district-level committee (This committee shall submit its report to the State Pollution Control Board every 6 months).
    • Segregation: Biomedical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories. This is to improve the segregation of waste at the source.
      • Yellow: This includes post-operated body parts, caps, masks, pathological wastes, bedding, placenta, plaster of Paris, etc
      • Red: This includes syringe, IV Sets, catheters, gloves, urine bags, blood bags, dialysis kits, etc
      • White: This category contains waste sharps including needles, syringes, etc.
      • Blue: This category contains glassware and metallic body implants
  • Role of health care facilities: The health care facilities have a larger role in medical waste management. Such as,
    • Compulsory pre-treatment of the laboratory, microbiological waste, and blood bags before disposal
    • Phasing out chlorinated plastic bags, gloves, blood bags, etc
    • Maintaining a registry of biomedical wastes generated in their facility and updating them daily.
Biomedical waste management practice in India
  • The management of Biomedical wastes begins at the bedside of the patient. The hospitals categorize, segregate, pre-treat, and dispose of the medical waste in different containers.
  • As per the 2016 rules, these wastes have to be treated and disposed of by Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility (CBWTF).
  • In case, there is no CBWTF within the reach of a healthcare facility, then such healthcare facility should install a captive treatment and disposal facility.
According to the government data, India had 200 authorized CBWTFs in 28 States in 2020 for the environmentally safe disposal of biomedical waste. The remaining states do not have such facilities.
Effects of biomedical waste in India
Pollution and health hazards are the two important impacts of medical wastes.
Pollution due to biomedical waste
  • Land Pollution: If not treated and dumped into landfills then there is a high chance for heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, etc. get released. Further, there is a chance these metals get absorbed by plants and can then enter the food chain also.
  • Air Pollution: Pathogens present in the waste can enter and remain in the air for a long period in the form of spores or pathogens. As the Covid-19 spread through the air, improper treating/not treating it might lead to a new wave of Covid-19.
  • Radioactive pollution: Hospitals are increasingly using radioactive isotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The main radioisotopes used in hospitals are technetium-99m (Tc-99m), Iodine-131(I-131), etc. This radioactive material can come from research laboratories, ICUs in liquid form. These have carcinogenic properties.
Health hazards due to biomedical waste
  • Spread of infectious diseases: According to the WHO study, improper waste management is one of the major causes of an increase in infectious diseases globally. This is why the Covid-19 pandemic wastes require proper treatment.
  • Operational health hazards: Improper handling of biomedical waste might lead to Injuries from sharps and exposure to harmful radioactive wastes. This will create issues for nurses, emergency medical personnel, sanitary workers.
  • Increase antimicrobial resistance (AMR): The biomedical wastes aggravate the problem of AMR. Ever since the pandemic, the use of biocides (sanitizers, disinfectants, and antibiotics) increased manifold. If there is no proper treatment of biocides then the AMR will increase rapidly.
Suggestions to improve biomedical waste management
  • Improving the sustainability of the health care sector: The government has to move beyond monitoring and enforcement. Instead, the government has to invest along with the health service providers to scale up the proper treatment of biomedical waste.
  • Equipping Municipalities and Panchayats: The government has to provide training to ground-level workers to segregate biomedical wastes. Further, the government can even allot sufficient funds through central funding from National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
  • Stringent actions against defaulters: The ill-operated health care facilities and CBWTFs have to be strictly punished. The government can even initiate the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers of biomedical equipment.
  • Trigger Innovation: The government can incentivise start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that offer solutions for waste segregation and treatment.
  • Awareness campaigns for waste segregation in households: Due to home quarantine and home treatment many individuals do not use yellow and red color bags for segregating their medical wastes. So, during the supply of medicine, the health officials have to create awareness about waste segregation. They should also provide garbage bags(Red and Yellow) along with their medicines.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top