According to the agency’s World analysis of healthcare waste in the context of COVID-19: status, impacts and tipsthe primarily plastic trashthreatens human and environmental health, and exposes a dire require to improve waste management practices.

The sight of discarded masks, littering pavements, beaches and roadsides, has grow to be a universal image of the on-likely pandemic throughout the world. 

Talking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s main, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, claimed the report “is a reminder that despite the fact that the pandemic is the most extreme wellness crisis in a century, it is related with many other difficulties that nations experience.”

The estimates are based on the roughly 87,000 tonnes of personalized protective equipment (PPE) that was procured concerning March 2020 and November 2021 and transported by a joint UN emergency initiative. Most of this products is anticipated to have finished up as waste.

For the agency, this is just an first sign of the scale of the problem. It does not consider any of the COVID-19 commodities procured exterior of the initiative, nor waste generated by the community, like disposable masks.

COVID fallout

The analysis points out that around 140 million examination kits, with a likely to generate 2,600 tonnes of non-infectious waste (mainly plastic) – and 731,000 litres of chemical waste (equivalent to just one-third of an Olympic-sizing swimming pool – have been transported.

At the similar time, above 8 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally producing 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the kind of syringes, needles, and security containers. 

As the UN and countries grappled with the quick endeavor of securing and good quality-assuring provides of PPE, significantly less attention and methods had been devoted to the harmless and sustainable management of this waste. 

For the Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Michael Ryan, this sort of protection is vital, “but it is also vital to make certain that it can be utilized securely without impacting on the surrounding setting.” 

This implies owning efficient administration systems in put, which includes advice for health and fitness workers on what to do. 

Deficiency of means

Currently, 30 per cent of healthcare facilities (60 per cent in the the very least produced international locations) are not equipped to deal with existing waste loads, let on your own the additional waste.

This can expose health staff to needle accidents, burns and pathogenic microorganisms, stated WHO. Communities living near improperly managed landfills and waste disposal sites can be impacted by contaminated air from burning waste, very poor water top quality, or illness carrying pests. 

The Director for Environment, Weather Improve and Health and fitness at WHO, Maria Neira, believes the pandemic has compelled the planet to reckon with this issue. 

“Significant transform at all ranges, from the world wide to the clinic floor, in how we regulate the healthcare waste stream, is a primary requirement of weather-smart overall health care systems”, she explained. 


The report lays out a established of recommendations, including eco-friendly packaging and shipping purchasing safe and reusable PPE, produced of recyclable or biodegradable components expense in non-burn waste treatment technologies and investments in the recycling sector to ensure products, like plastics, can have a 2nd life.

For WHO, the well being crisis also offers an possibility to develop strong national policies and rules, change behaviours, and enhance budgets.

TheChair of the Health and fitness Care Waste Working Team, Dr Anne Woolridge, noted that there is a growing appreciation that overall health investments have to take into consideration environmental and climate implications.

“For example, protected and rational use of PPE will not only minimize environmental hurt from waste, it will also help you save dollars, cut down potential supply shortages and additional support an infection prevention by transforming behaviours”, she described. 

Pandemic update

A disposable face mask discarded on the street in Chicago, USA.

Very last Sunday, 30 January, marked two many years since WHO declared COVID-19 a community overall health emergency of worldwide problem, the highest degree of alarm below global legislation.

At the time, there were being less than 100 situations and no fatalities claimed exterior China.

Two years later, much more than 370 million instances have been reported, and more than 5.6 million deaths, and WHO says the numbers are an underestimate.

Because the Omicron variant was initially recognized just 10 months back, practically 90 million cases have been noted, much more than in the complete of 2020.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, claimed that a narrative has taken maintain in some nations that simply because of vaccines, and for the reason that of Omicron’s high transmissibility and lessen severity, protecting against transmission is no for a longer period probable, and no more time essential.

“Nothing could be additional from the truth”, he said. 

He mentioned that WHO is not calling for any nation to return to lockdown, but all nations should continue to protect their people today making use of each individual resource in the toolkit, not vaccines by yourself.

It is untimely for any place either to surrender, or to declare victory”, he argued.