As it is known, the raw material of plastic is fossil fuels. During the pandemic, plastic waste management has been severely disrupted in some developing countries due to basic waste management infrastructures and limited infrastructure and facilities. Making the management of plastic waste a major concern, a call for higher endurance is needed for the entire waste management chain.
This is an urgent problem: Plastic waste that accumulates in our ecosystems is used more than ever and is medically contaminated. Dangerous accumulation of micro and nano-sized plastic continues to increase. The presence of micro and nanoplastics in the environment is known for its harmful effects such as complications for organisms in all taxa. It decreases the reproduction and growth rates of aquatic organisms. PPE items can be picked up by marine megafauna and creatures such as mammals or seabirds (Fernández & Anastasopoulou, 2019).
PPEs are chemical contaminants. Organic compounds and heavy metals interact with plastic surfaces and are absorbed by one or more sorption mechanisms such as hydrophobic interactions, electrostatic interactions (Fred-Ahmadu et al., 2020).
We are far from talking about healthy cities. The facts on the ground also show that international guidelines remain only on paper to address our concerns. Increasing medical waste with pandemic, indiscriminate use of disinfectants, masks and gloves; We must all be careful about the dangerous spread of untreated waste in the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic had a serious impact on all parts of the world and was not an exception in waste management. Many poor people were far from hygiene equipment and could not manage their waste; Rich people, who had easier access to hygiene equipment, could not manage their waste either, sending it to poor countries. International waste management standards have brought many dangers in the aquatic environment and natural environment as developed countries send their wastes to developing countries. Waste management covers potentially infected outputs that require careful handling and purification processes. The increase in the amount of waste will cause this danger to continue in the future. According to the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, piles of disposable face masks and gloves used to protect against the novel coronavirus were thrown into rivers and oceans around the world, causing serious damage to ecosystems. I support the #MASKUARY campaign initiated by the editors of TiredEarth.
Considering the gradual opening of schools, transition to normalization in working conditions and zero waste practices, we find it important to collect waste separately at its source on the issues of recognition and management of waste.
In this context, attention should be paid to the processes regarding the collection, transportation, temporary storage and delivery of disposable masks and gloves and other hygiene material outputs to the relevant facilities. Wastes in health institutions or other areas (student dormitories, etc.) should be managed with the "medical waste" generated in the infirmary and other medical units of institutions, organizations and enterprises. Wastes should never be mixed with other wastes.
Personal hygiene material wastes such as disposable masks, gloves and handkerchiefs originating from homes and workplaces should be collected in small amounts in tear-resistant garbage bags, and tightly tied garbage bags should then be placed in a second bag against the risk of tearing. And it should be collected by local governments. To minimize the probability of the virus surviving on waste, waste bags should be kept in rooms or balconies out of the reach of other people and animals for 72 hours. Efforts should be made and controlled by municipalities for the collection and delivery of masks, gloves and other personal hygiene material waste.
The equipment used in waste collection, collection, transportation and storage operations and the areas where these equipment are located should be cleaned / hygienic after each waste discharge. It should be cleaned with disinfectants. These equipment should not be used for other purposes. Measures should be taken for spillage and / or leakage water that may occur during collection, transportation and storage, and in case of pollution, the contaminated surface should be disinfected. Collected wastes should be sent directly to landfill or incineration, uncontrolled.
It should be ensured that the personnel assigned for the collection, transportation, processing and disposal of wastes use personal protective materials such as gloves and masks during work, pay attention not to contact with the waste, and wear special work clothes during collection and transportation operations.
Care should be taken to keep a sufficient amount of disinfectant available to the staff on duty and to ensure the hygiene of both the equipment used and personal materials with disinfectant.