There has been a reduction in waste categorisation from the existing 10 categories to four which is a good step, says non-profit
Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the new Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 released by the Union environment ministry.
According to the CSE, this is a significant step forward, as the existing rules of 1998 have been revamped with major changes occurring in the reduction in waste categorisation from the existing 10 categories to four.
It is estimated that 484 tonnes of bio-medical waste are generated every day in India and out of this 447 tonnes are treated. The rest of it pollutes the environment. As such kind of waste contains infectious pathogens, it should be ensured that it is treated properly, the CSE feels.
The new rules have made thing simple for hospitals as a reduction in the waste categorisation number will lessen the confusion faced by waste handlers and other healthcare workers, who deal with bio-medical waste.
The CSE finds the new rules to be comprehensive as these clearly define the roles of stakeholders, waste-generators and waste treatment facility operators, local authorities, state governments and pollution control boards.
Some key highlights
- The new rules mandate a bar code system for bags and containers containing bio-medical waste which is a good move as this will restrict the entry of waste in the illegal recycling market. It will also be beneficial for rag-pickers and people dealing with infected solid plastic waste and working in recycling industries.
- The purview of the new rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps and other healthcare activities.
- Under the new rules, bedded hospitals will get automatic authorisation while there would be a one-time authorisation for non-bedded ones.
- The new rules mandate pre-treatment of lab waste, blood samples, laboratory waste, microbiological waste and blood bags through disinfection or on-site sterilisation as prescribed by WHO and NACO.
- Use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags will be phased out within two years. This will be a good step if implemented within the stipulated time of two years as burning of chlorinated plastics often leads to emission of dioxin-furan, a persistent organic pollutant that has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems. It damages the immune system, interferes with hormones and causes cancer.
- The rules mandate training and regular immunisation of all healthcare workers.
Scaling up action
The CSE feels that implementation should follow the legal mandate. The non-profit’s visits to medical facilities have revealed shocking facts on the current handling and disposal practices of bio-medical waste which raise serious doubts on the government estimate of 92 per cent compliance level at present.
Besides hospitals and clinics, bio-medical waste is generated in blood donation camps, vaccination camps and a host of other places. Therefore, the move of including these camps in the ambit of medical waste is a good decision, the CSE feels. However, an action plan needs to be designed on how to monitor these camps and the waste they generate.
The good thing is hospitals and Common Bio Medical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) in Delhi and other cities across India have managed waste well.
In India, there are around 198 CBWTFs while 28 new facilities are coming up. This ensures handling and managing bio-medical waste in a sustainable manner.
The way forward
As per the notification, all CBWTFs will have to ensure that operational standards are notified for running incinerators.
Hospitals will need to phase out use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags within two years from the date of notification of these rules.
A CSE analysis says that being a signatory to the Stockholm Convention, India may benefit from the phasing out of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags, as most of the times these items end up in incinerators, causing huge emission of dioxin and furans.
Hospitals have been asked to provide training to all their healthcare workers and others involved in the handling of bio-medical waste at the time of induction and after that at least once every year.
They also have to report on the details of training programmes conducted, the number of personnel trained and those who do not undergo training in the annual report.
Hospitals have been directed to immunise all healthcare workers and others involved in the handling of bio-medical waste for protection against diseases
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