Pandemic looms as greater threat to environment: Environmentalists

If you think Covid-19 pandemic is a threat to humans alone, wait until you know how it poses risk to the environment.

While everyone thought that with the pandemic forcing heavy industries to shut down and fewer cars are on the road and as such improves the quality of air, there is a bigger crisis up ahead–wastes. 
Where do wastes during the pandemic go?

This was the main topic of the web forum: “Where Do Our Disposable PPEs Go? Assessing Waste Management” organized by MindaNews via Zoom on Monday. 

Engr. Neil Anthony Jamili, research and development manager of RAD Green Solutions Corporation, presented how dense Covid related wastes are generated amid the pandemic. 

“This is an imminent fear that we are facing infectious waste just being thrown everywhere without solution. The presence of our company and Maya Med Waste has been considered very important,” Jamili said. 

RAD Green Solutions is a Davao-based engineering company responsible for the manufacturing of the systems used by Maya Med Waste Corporation, which is the only waste treatment in Davao Region accredited by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR).

Medical waste is transported to RAD in yellow bags, but after the treatment it is already considered as general municipal waste so is placed now to black bag and considered to be thrown at landfills in a separate section or area. 

Jamili said across Davao Region they are currently capable of treating 50 tons of medical waste per month. 

“That include all Covid facilities in Davao Region. So far 80 percent usually of medical waste we considered infectious is Covid related wastes,” he said. 
RAD has different systems under ISO certifications which include the Pyroclave systems, these are the systems that e company has installed across the country.

The company has installed a pyroclave Beetle in Tugbok, which is currently being used in Davao City. Although, it does not have shredding, but it is capable of treating medical waste including PPEs (personal protective equipment) reaching up to 300 degrees celsius for more than 30 minutes and this through indirect burning. It undergoes the process of thermal disinfection- this is compared to the health care waste management manual of the Department of Health (DOH) mandating of burning to 121 degree celsius in 30 minutes.

The waste output is dry and shredded. After the treatment, infectious waste (still in a yellow bag but RAD puts it in a green bag) the weight output reduction is around 20 percent to 30 percent and the volume reduction is 20 percent to 40 percent. 

The technology is compliant with the Philippine Clean Air Act.
“Meaning we have to pass all emission standards before we treat medical waste and also it is compliant with the DOH health care management manual which is the mandate that we are currently following right now in terms of the disposal of medical waste including the Covid related wastes,” Jamili said. 

Also this is the only medical waste treatment machine that has its own certificate product registration given by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

RAD has installed pyroclave systems in Metro Manila, NCR, Davao City, Naga City, Albay in Bicol Region, Tacloban City, Koronadal in South Cotabato; Compostela Valley, and Sarangani Province.

Meanwhile, the Interface Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) has urged the public to move away from disposable PPEs and dispose their waste properly to avert a Covid waste crisis. 

Chinkie Pelino-Golle, executive director of IDIS and also presenter during the forum, cited global movement Break Free from Plastics that if everyone in the world wore a disposable mask every day for a year, there will be three trillion masks to deal with afterwards. 

Break Free stated that disposable masks are made from dense thermoplastics that cannot be recycled and do not biodegrade fully when discarded and can last up to 450 years in the environment. 

“That’s crazy and creepy. Mamatay na tayong lahat the disposable plastics remain in the environment,” Golle said.
Golle said IDIS is still trying to gather data data in terms of waste generation in Davao City during pandemic.

“I wish to share the waste generated during the pandemic but i was not able to secure the data we just share figures shared online by our partners,” she said. 

She shared data before the pandemic by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) that calculated waste generated per day resulted to 990.703 tons in 2017 has increased by 2.2 percent in 2018 or having 1012.486 tons on a daily basis. Residential waste account the bulk of the total solid waste by 80.10 percent such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, paper and cardboard, glass bottles, etc. ; wastes from commercial sources, which include food establishments, general stores, public markets and recreational centers and memorial parks sum up to 12.8 percent; industrial wastes from industries, farms and service centers add up to 3.2 percent; hospital wastes generates 1.70 percent; institutions such as government offices, academic institutions produce 1.60 percent; and slaughterhouses and dressing plants yield 0.60 percent of the total waste. 

“This is the projected waste generation of residential and non-residential sources from 2017 and the projected volume until 2027. We are expecting that our waste generation will also increase yearly. We are also expecting that our waste volume generation will also increase,” Golle said.