Passengers wearing protective masks (File Image - Reuters)
Airports in India are dealing with a new and concerning biological waste issue – that of personal protective equipment (PPE) used and discarded daily by passengers from disembarked flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biowaste handled by India’s six busiest airports – Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai – was 6,000 kg or close to 80,000 PPE kits daily, airport executives told The Economic Times.
This is a new challenge as bio-waste handled by these airports pre-COVID was ‘zero’, the sources said, adding that around 500 kg of plastic wrap used for these kits is also added to their daily waste burden.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.
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The burden is such that almost all these airports have engaged third-party contractors to collect and incinerate the bio-items. When asked for a solution on the issue, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told the paper: “Health is a state subject and states need to follow the detailed guidelines for bio-medical waste management as issued.”
As per a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) notification, PPEs discarded in public spaces should be stored in separate bins for three days and then shredded before being disposed as dry general solid waste.
Sunita Narain, director general at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), was of the opinion that as “bulk generators of biowaste” airports now need to have “its own set of proper guidelines on segregating, recycling and processing these waste materials.”
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An executive at the Bengaluru airport however pointed out that passengers often do not follow procedure, even if airports do. “Passengers throw food and packets into bins meant for biowaste and then contractors do not accept them.” This means that airport staff has to separate articles.
They also noted that while wash and re-use of such items is uncertain, passengers will most likely continue discarding them.Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here