‘Dispose of face masks, other hazardous wastes properly,’ DOH and DENR appeal to public

The Department of Health (DOH) warned healthcare facilities that they would face sanctions if they were found not following the proper disposal of medical waste. 

This picture taken on July 1, 2020 shows a discarded face mask lying on the ground along a street in the central Karrada district of Iraq's capital Baghdad. - Iraq's officially recorded number of COVID-19 coronavirus infections surpassed 50,000 on July 1, the health ministry said, as the war-ravaged country's crippled healthcare system struggles to cope with the outbreak. Health authorities announced that 2,050 people had died of the respiratory illness, while 26,267 people had recovered. Iraq, which has recorded cases in all of its 18 provinces but mainly in Baghdad -- a city of 10 million people -- said it has carried out 556,000 tests since March. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire issued the warning after reports that used rapid antibody test kits were found along M. Dela Fuente Street in Sampaloc, Manila. 

“There is a sanction for all of these healthcare facilities na hindi nila tinatapon nang maayos ang kanilang waste. Let us try to understand na ito pong mga rapid test kits na ito, ito po ay healthcare waste ,” said Vergeire. 

For its part, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday renewed its appeal to the public to properly discard and label hazardous healthcare wastes, following reports that used rapid test kits had been scattered along a street in Sampaloc, Manila on Tuesday evening, a development that has been noted by the DOH.

"Let me remind everybody that we already have the right process for disposing of these special wastes. What we are saying is very simple. Just put the hazardous healthcare waste in a labeled container or put it in a yellow trash bag," DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said in a DZBB interview.

The DENR official acknowledges that the society is overwhelmed by the rising amount of household waste due to the pandemic. But he reminded the public to do their part in containing the coronavirus starting from their homes.

Household healthcare wastes, such as used face masks and gloves, are considered special wastes.

"When placed in a trash bag just have proper labeling so the one collecting the garbage will know that it is a used test kit, personal protective equipment, or face mask. Or you can personally tell the garbage collector that it contains a hazardous waste. Proper labeling is a huge help to the garbage collector who will dispose of these wastes. It is very simple to do only if we care about our fellowmen," Antiporda pointed out.

He said the DENR will look into the incident in Sampaloc to determine where the used test kits came from, "if it is from a hospital, clinic, or company that initiated coronavirus screening among its employees."

Those who will be found responsible for the "indiscriminate disposal of hazardous waste" will be charged for violation of the Republic Act (RA) 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, he added.

Antiporda explained that hospital wastes are collected by registered treatment storage and disposal facility. 

"We don't have a problem with our disposal facilities. The biggest part of the problem comes from households that are treating these as ordinary household waste. What happens is we protect ourselves using this face mask but when we dispose this improperly, we end up harming the people around us," he added.

He cited that the DENR is planning to distribute 100 yellow trash bins for the special wastes.

"We will prioritize Manila and give at least one trash bin to each barangay. It will be placed in a strategic area where people can discard their hazardous household healthcare wastes," he said.

“Pagka healthcare waste, mas iba po ang treatment nyan kaysa sa mga ordinary waste products natin katulad sa bahay---dahil ito po ay maaring makapanghawa at maaring makapag-cause ng harm sa mga tao ,” she added. 

Vergeire noted that medical waste must be placed in a bag and should be labeled properly before this can be disposed of in a designated area---that is approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

“Hindi po dapat ito kung saan-saan lang tinatapon ,” said the Health official. 

“If nakita natin na you are not disposing your healthcare waste properly, then there would be accorded sanctions for this,” she added. 

“So una , we issue warnings. Kapag hindi ka pa rin sumunod , we will suspend you, and the final would be the revocation of your license,” she furthered.