Europa and latin america / Covid-19

COVID 19 and sanitary waste

07 April 2020
Desechos sanitarios

The World Health Organisation is providing all countries with the most accurate information for the prevention and control of infections. It also requires all players involved in the fight against the pandemic to find quick solutions for managing the large amounts of medical waste generated and to comply with legal procedures.

In this area EUROPOL has launched RETROVIRUS, an operation for the control and special treatment of the sanitary waste currently being produced, which brings together the different prevention measures already applied by municipalities and health centres in Europe.

Waste management

Within the European Union, in addition to the European Commission’s guide for shipping waste during the crisis, municipalities are finding solutions using different methods:

– Special containers in cities,

– Special procedures to collect and treat potentially hazardous waste.- Closed public landfill,

– Selective collection for hazardous and potentially dangerous waste.

Furthermore, unexpected loads of sanitary waste imply risks such as:

– Criminal activities that propose easy collection

– Unauthorised deposits.

– Use of classic rubbish containers for contaminated medical waste.

The discovery of personal protective items is a source of contamination and poses a high risk to public health. Such items include masks and gloves in public areas, posing a danger to society.

To avoid this, the enforcement agencies in charge of ensuring compliance with the law are key to the action of Member States. For example, the Portuguese Republican National Guard communicates through the social network on this topic. At the same time, in Spain, the Environment and Urban Planning Prosecutor’s Office has sent prosecutors supervisory instructions against possible criminal behaviour in the treatment of waste.

According to EUROPOL, very serious problems such as the appearance of facial masks in the ocean around the world threaten the environment, due to their spreading the pandemic and other diseases as well as contaminating the marine world.

On 6 March in Wuhan (China), the starting point of the pandemic, 200 tons of medical waste were generated, forcing the authorities to burn this waste in non-specialised centres, to move it to other parts of China or to buy foreign technological solutions.

The Jakarta Environment Agency in Indonesia gives instructions on the processing of gloves and masks, where the authorities also take the situation into account.

This report prepared by EUROPOL contains information from exclusively open sources and is intended to be updated regularly.