Much has been written already on the piling and increasing amount of medical waste generated due to the onset of the pandemic, and which has been likewise affected by the recent surge in cases and enhanced community quarantine measures as of late. In fact, even households are now producing medical waste to a certain degree due to asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 cases being treated or being managed at home.
Our Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has also been highlighting the medical waste generated as of late – estimated at 52,000 metric tons as of last April when it was reported that only about 27 percent or 14,000 metric tons of those waste is appropriately treated for disposal. Experts also warned about the seriousness of this concern and called on the citizenry to be united in segregating trash consciously and conscientiously.
Technically, we have a lot of laws already passed to guide us in going about this matter. At the core of it, we have the Republic Act 2003 or the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” which forms basis of what needs to be done. Article 2 of Section 21 of the same act specifically talks about the segregation of waste and requires the different local government units to lay out their respective plans for their cities or municipalities.
Then in 2013, DENR’s National Solid Waste Management Council passed Resolution 60 providing guidelines for mandatory solid waste, segregation-at-source, segregated collection and recovery, and to prescribe fines and penalties for violations thereof.
Perhaps what struck me the most here is the segregation-at-source, and how important it is especially at this point in time to truly and collectively start doing our own efforts in contributing in the segregation of medical waste. Our own households generate medical waste related to the current pandemic – disposable masks, for example, would account for the main waste in the process. In an interview with CNN, DENR Undersecretary for Climate Change Analiza Teh encouraged households to segregate medical wastes by disposing them separately and placing in black garbage bags. To further emphasize this, homeowner’s associations may also be tapped to do its collective efforts in establishing programs related to the proper medical waste segregation habits.
We do have the necessary laws and regulations needed to manage waste segregation, but with lack of discipline and apathetic behavior, waste management will continue to pose as a challenge for all of us and will be a major concern very soon given the pandemic-related wastes generated in the process. The call to action here, in this case, is to start at home and be aware of what we can do to help in managing wastes created at this time of pandemic.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.