Environmentalist makes case for proper disposal of COVID-19 PPE

THE current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic poses severe negative environmental impact if proper procedures for disposal of PPEs and waste management are not enforced.

This is according to Victor Akinmuyiwa, co-founder, Recycledge.

Proper disposal of COVID-19 PPE came to the fore after a viral video surfaced last month showing a man who reportedly took part in the burial of the late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari. The unnamed man was seen disposing the used PPE openly by the side of the road.

Akinmuyiwa said, “It is highly pertinent at this crucial time to emphasize on the possible worsened spread of COVID-19 if the issue of improper disposal of used PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves and face masks are left unaddressed in a comprehensive way and given strict monitoring for total compliance.

“We have heard a lot about measures to take to avoid contracting COVID-19. Yet, only a little information has been available about how to safely dispose of COVID-19 waste during and after the pandemic. Should we dispose of used PPE in just any place?”

Akinmuyiwa, who is also a microbiologist and a certified safety consultant, said: “Careless disposal of contaminated PPEs can cause the further spread of the novel coronavirus across the population. Even if disposed of but not adequately disposed of in the environment, it can lead to the resurgence of the virus at a later time. This is because viruses don’t die, but they instead become inactivated or enter into a state of inactivity outside the living medium.”

Explaining further, he said, “There are two major transmission routes of the COVID-19 virus; contact and respiratory routes. As infected individual sneezes or coughs, respiratory droplets become generated. Thus, any person having close contact with an individual having respiratory symptoms is at the risk of getting exposed to potentially infective respiratory droplets.

“More importantly, droplets may get stuck on surfaces where the viability of the virus could remain maintained. This, therefore, makes the immediate environment of an infected fellow to become a source of transmission of the virus (contact transmission), and that is why proper disposal of COVID-19 waste is highly pertinent.”

The Recycledge co-founder noted that the “majority of Nigerians are lacking information on the correct and recommended ways of disposing of their used Personal Protective Equipment. At this period, virtually everyone is using face masks and probably gloves. Although both government and non-governmental organizations have been doing well in the area of orientating the general public on the need for using PPE, yet there is little they are telling the general public on how and when to dispose of their used PPE.

“Alongside this, worthy of commendation is the fact that the health workers and professionals are appropriately guided on the recommended ways of COVID-19 waste disposal. The World Health Organization has recommended that mask replacement is necessary as soon as the one in use becomes dampened and that the removed masks must be properly disposed into the designated waste bin or COVID-19 waste collection container.”

“Therefore, there is a need for increased sensitization of the people on avoiding disposing PPE at just anywhere or littering the environment with such wastes.”

Akinmuyiwa advised that “COVID-19 waste must be sorted from other general or household wastes, and separately disposed of in recommended ways.

“Intensified awareness on safe disposal of used face masks and gloves is highly critical at this time. Protocol on COVID-19 waste disposal set by the government and approved health authorities need to be intensively monitored for strict compliance to prevent risks of further infection.

“Special waste collection containers and efficiently running waste disposal system needs to be positioned at strategic areas for the sole purpose of disposing of used PPE and other Covid-19 wastes in a safe and environmental-friendly way.”



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