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2 years into the pandemic and there’s more waste than ever, causing a significant strain to waste systems globally, as stated by the latest WHO report. In this report, it is estimated that the majority of over 87,000 tonnes of PPE which was bought from March 2020 to November 2021 ended up as waste.
However, PPE was not the only waste during this time. Test kits are now estimated to cause 2,600 tonnes of non-chemical waste and 731,000 litres of chemical waste.

The importance of new waste procedures

Workers around the world must be protected from Covid-19, which means PPE equipment is a necessity for many. For those working in the health sector that face increased risks, the need for such equipment is crucial. These statements are further echoed by Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director for the WHO Emergencies Programme.
However, access to the necessary PPE equipment is just one element. Disposing of it after being used must also be considered to lessen the burden on our environment. That’s why the WHO has advised companies to implement an efficient waste management system.
It has been reported that a staggering 30% of healthcare facilities do not have sufficient waste systems, and this is before the extra amount is added because of COVID-19. For developing countries, this percentage has been known to increase to 60%.
As a result, hazardous situations can arise putting health workers and the general community at risk, inflating waste disposal and managing costs and rapidly increasing the risk to the environment.
Communities that live near waste disposal sites and landfills that aren’t managed correctly can be exposed to contaminated air due to waste being burnt, diseases from pests in the area, and below-average water quality.
All these issues have been further echoed by Dr Maria the director for environment, climate change, and health at the world health organisation. She has called for rapid change for all levels of the health care waste stream, from a global level down all the way to each hospital floor.

The Challenge of Cleaning Up Pandemic Waste

The WHO has outlined in the report, ways for how sustainable waste management can be implemented during Covid-19. These recommendations range from using sustainable and biodegradable packaging to purchasing reusable PPE options. Also, investment in non-burnable waste treatment is recommended to help the environment and improve waste recycling as much as possible.
The challenge of cleaning up pandemic waste cannot be solved by individuals and businesses alone. Governmental policies and strict waste regulations, as well as high accountability, are all necessary for a change in behaviour when it comes to environmental waste.
The health sector is one of the key industries where waste needs to be reduced. Although during the pandemic a fast response was needed without regard to the environment, this should now change and plastic waste should be greatly reduced in order to preserve the ecosystem. Because of all this, safe usage of PPE, minimising the health industry’s carbon footprint and landfill waste should all be improved in the coming years.

Can we vaccinate against the PPE Waste Pandemic?

Thankfully, yes. The GPT Waste team has worked throughout the pandemic to help firms optimise their waste streams with rising PPE levels in mind. Not only is the environmental cost high, but the rising costs of waste management through inefficient waste management in regards to PPE disposal is becoming the new epidemic of waste.
Luckily, with correct waste consultation, review, planning and action there’s hope the devastating environmental and financial costs can be mitigated.


GPT Waste offers an industry-leading, transparent and technology-backed offering to the UK waste sector. We can offer strategic reviews of your waste management requirements in order to identify environmental and cost benefits. Our approach has made us the UK’s leading independent waste management company. To speak to our expert team about your waste management requirements, call 0844 854 5000