We have to bin our medical waste problem

A sustainable waste management plan is the only way

Waste management is one front where Bangladesh has fallen well short of the mark, indeed for a long time now. Even when it comes to the disposal of medical waste, we continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for public health by not treating this matter with the gravity it deserves.

According to a recent report by Transparency International Bangladesh, around 60% of hospitals in the country lack the necessary bins to sort and dispose of medical waste and, more worryingly, 83% of the hospitals have no waste treatment system in place to begin with.

These are startling numbers and the report, carried out over the period of 18 months, is nothing if not a scathing indictment of our collective callousness over this pressing public health issue.

Even during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when poor waste management was a matter of life and death, we saw nothing but utter negligence as highly infectious medical waste was being mismanaged, threatening not just public health but the environment as well.

Not only is the safe management of biomedical waste absolutely necessary for maintaining a safe and clean environment but according to the medical journal Lancet, it can also be a potential source of re-emergence of Covid-19 infections, which certain nations such as China are already experiencing as we speak.

As of now, only one NGO is dealing with the issue of medical waste management in Bangladesh, but given the severity of the situation, the government's direct involvement is all but imperative. 

The administration and relevant authorities must prioritize the issue surrounding medical waste management. It must ensure that the waste is properly separated from regular waste, and is disposed of safely so as to not cause further degradation to the environment. Any institutions, medical or otherwise, found violating such rules have to be penalized and made an example of.

There are no two ways about it: A sustainable waste management plan is the only way for us moving forward.