The pandemic is changing the world as we know it. And it is doing it in all areas of life. COVID-19 also has an environmental impact on the planet and we are already noticing it.
This is reflected in a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) detailing how the coronavirus pandemic in which we have been living since March 2020 is affecting the environment.
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The WHO report focuses on the huge amount of waste generated and its poor management and subsequent treatment to reduce its impact on the Earth.
According to the report, dubbed “Global analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19”, it is estimated that, since the start of the pandemic, more than 87,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) have been purchased worldwide. that after performing their protection functions against COVID-19, they have ended up as waste.
These resources intended to meet the needs arising from the fundamental response to the health crisis would be causing a huge and irreparable environmental impact.
In addition to the huge amount of resources used, the WHO emphasizes the disastrous management of the waste that has been generated since the outbreak of the pandemic.
As the report of the World Health Organization points out in its prologue.
- "Globally, there is a lack of management services for healthcare waste, especially in less developed countries."
- “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused large increases in healthcare waste, depleting healthcare facility resources and exacerbating the environmental impacts of solid waste”
The environmental impact of COVID-19 can end up being lethal
A first approach to the problem
The environmental impact of COVID-19 that the WHO encrypts in its report is, according to the organization itself, only a cursory approximation of the problem.
And it is that, "the study has not taken into account any of the basic products acquired outside this initiative, nor the waste generated by the population."
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In other words, for example, the disposable surgical masks that we have been using for two years have not been counted.
Data indicates that more than 140 million diagnostic test kits have been shipped and more than 8 billion doses of vaccines have been administered.
Worldwide data that indicates that “2,600 tons of non-infectious waste and 731,000 liters of chemical waste” will end up being generated.
In short, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated "144,000 tons of additional waste , in the form of syringes, needles, and safety containers."
Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program says:
"It is absolutely essential to provide health workers with adequate PPE, but also to ensure that they can be used safely, without having an impact on the surrounding environment,"
Recommendations to reduce the environmental impact of COVID-19
According to data from the " Global analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19 ", one in three health centers in the world does not safely manage the waste it generates.
With this voice of alarm, the WHO tries to quantify the environmental damage that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing to the planet .
Damage that will end up being irremediable, according to experts.
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They intend to give the keys on how to carry out a correct management of the waste that is generated by the normal functioning of their daily work.
These recommendations are based on the manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19 and are encompassed in two ideas:
- Make an investment in essential services , from water and sanitation to non-polluting energy in health centers.
- Ensuring a rapid energy transition for health.
- Use of packaging and shipments that respect the environment.
- Use of safe and reusable PPE and recyclable or biodegradable materials.
- Investment in waste treatment technologies that do not resort to burning.
- Reverse logistics to support centralized processing.
- Investments in the recycling sector to ensure that materials can have a second life.
Recipes, in short, for the world to be able to achieve a complete and green recovery from the coronavirus crisis .
If we change our paradigm as requested by the WHO, the safe and rational use of health resources
- “Not only will it reduce the environmental damage caused by its disposal, but it will also save money, reduce potential supply shortages, and further contribute to infection prevention by changing behaviors.”
They are all benefits.