La gestión de los residuos sanitarios, una problemática global que afecta al medioambiente.
Europa and latin america / Covid-19

Medical waste management, a global problem

08 May 2020

Covid19 has revealed one more problem: the medical waste generated as a result of the pandemic. This is why EL PAcCTO, through its police cooperation component, and within the framework of the Jaguar Network for specialist police cooperation on environmental crime between Latin American countries and the European Union, has supported EUROPOL in presenting the Retrovirus operation.

See more about the Jaguar Network.

The webinar entitled “The Problem of Medical Waste Management and the EUROPOL Retrovirus Operation” held on 6 May, was attended by 71 people from over 15 different countries in Latin America and the European Union, in addition to EUROPOL and INTERPOL. Its main objective was to exchange experiences and operational information from open sources on the increase in the traffic of medical waste related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Retrovirus Operation launched by EUROPOL, with the collaboration of INTERPOL, as a measure to promote awareness-raising, prevention and investigation on the impact of medical waste and its inappropriate treatment as this poses a threat to the environment and human health.

During the virtual seminar, the countries involved presented their needs and experiences regarding the management of the medical waste produced during the pandemic and the EUROPOL representative, José Antonio Alfaro, head of the Environmental Crime Unit, was responsible for answering, clarifying and outlining the European situation.

It was found that…

Criminal groups are taking advantage of the health crisis to illegally profit from the trafficking, management and disposal of medical waste. Furthermore, according to the latest calculations, it is estimated that each patient treated for COVID19 produces approximately 3.4 kg of medical waste per day. Its collection, transportation, management and disposal is a highly lucrative business for transnational criminal organisations; and its mismanagement carries risks for human health and biodiversity.

In addition, the environment has been strongly hit by an increase in crimes such as pollution, fraud in medical devices and corruption in the purchase, sale and distribution of the products needed in the pandemic.

Coordination between institutions.

Inter-institutional work between security forces and bodies, public ministries and judicial powers is essential to comprehensively address this problem. Coordination between the institutions of the judicial system and the Ministries of Environment, Ecological Transition, Health and Education is essential to obtain long-term results

Conventions, protocols and other international tools.

There is a need to harmonise the common legal framework between countries. Consequently, a proposal jointly developing an international instrument that narrowly defines environmental crimes and protects biodiversity is essential.

It is necessary to jointly undertake actions relating to awareness, prevention and the investigation in relation to medical waste. Inadequate treatment of these wastes endangers citizens, wildlife and severely pollutes the environment.

The organisation of the virtual activity served to reveal the points of view and needs of the Latin American institutions. The EL PAcCTO programme will continue to support initiatives such as those of EUROPOL to give visibility and seek efficient solutions to the demands established by the participating countries with the aim of achieving visible operational results.