Groups urge LGUs to address medical waste woes ahead of World Environmental Health Day

September 23, 2020 - 7:43 PM
Disposed face mask
A surgical face mask washes up on the shore of so-called Baseco Beach in Manila. ( Toledo IV)

Environmental health groups renewed their calls for local government units to take action and ensure that disposable face masks and other protective equipment against the coronavirus disease be disposed of properly.

Various groups of citizens campaigning for the protection of human health and the environment cited the need to adopt new measures or strengthened existing ordinances in order to prevent the arbitrary disposal of disposal face masks, face shields, goggles, wipes and tissues.

The groups also cited that hand sanitizers and alcohol rubbing containers must be disposed properly as well.

Their statement was released days ahead of the observance of the World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) on September 26.

“As the WEHD is observed locally, we appeal to our LGUs to enact new ordinances or reinforce existing ones that will deter users of disposable face masks and other items for infection control from simply throwing them on the ground,” Pat Nicdao, EcoWaste Coalition‘s policy and advocacy officer, said in a release.

“The speedy enactment and genuine enforcement of such ordinances, along with effective public information and outreach, will surely help in reducing the volume of COVID-related plastic waste polluting our streets, beaches and seas,” she added.

Chinkie Peliño-Golle of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability explained that the passage of such measures is “essential to promote environmental health given the unhampered supply of cheap single-use non-medical grade masks in the market.”

“Local authorities should expand information, education and communication efforts on the proper use and management of protective masks, including the ecological benefits of reusable or washable cloth masks over disposable plastic ones,” she said.

LGUs that are on the process of creating similar local ordinances in Metro Manila include the cities of Manila, Navotas and Quezon, Cebu City in the Visayas Region and Davao City in Mindanao.

WEHD was adopted by the Philippines when President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No 595 in 2018 which mandates government agencies to observe the event and identify activities that instill environmental health consciousness

Last month, reported that infectious medical wastes have been piling up amid the rise of coronavirus disease cases in the country.

These include used personal protective equipment, dressings, swabs, blood bags, urine bags, sputum cups, syringes, test tubes and histopathological waste.

Liquid waste such as urine, blood and other body fluids are also treated as infectious waste.

San Lazaro Hospital, a 500-bed capacity medical facility, has been reported to generate an average of 10,000 kilograms of infectious medical waste every month.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources were worried that if such medical wastes are not handled correctly, it might end up in seas and rivers.