Medical, plastic waste becoming a bigger problem in PH

Amid the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines is facing another looming concern on piling medical and plastic waste.

In a statement, waste management firm Metro Clark Waste Management (MCWM) has called for improved waste management amid the country’s growing garbage problem.

A forecast from Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that hospitals in Metro Manila alone generate 280 metric tons (MT) of medical wastes daily during the pandemic, a 595 percent increase from the 47 MT that healthcare facilities produce each day prior to the pandemic.

Healthcare waste includes used PPEs, dressings, swabs, blood bags, urine bags, sputum cups, syringes, and test tubes.

“Handling waste generated in our hospitals and other medical facilities such as quarantine sites and COVID-19 testing centers requires a mandatory and complex process to ensure public health and safety. It is a scheme that needs a concerted effort from different stakeholders as the waste goes from trash bin to landfill,” said MCWM executive vice president Vicky Gaetos.

“We reiterate the need for a strategic and efficient waste management program that can maintain the integrity of our public’s health and that of our land and water resources,” she added.

Even prior to the pandemic, the Philippines has already been dealing with a growing garbage crisis, with much more waste being generated than the available disposal capacity.

MCWM said the COVID-19 pandemic has merely highlighted this crisis.

Alongside the increased volume of infectious waste is the surge in the amount of plastic from all sources, whether directly related to fighting COVID, such as face masks, face shields, gloves, and alcohol and sanitizer bottles, or just regular disposable plastic packaging, such as disposable utensils.

According to the 2021 study ‘COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint’ by Heliyon, a global all-science, open-access journal, the Philippines ranks 17th worldwide in terms of global plastic waste generated from COVID-19 facemasks, with an estimated 41 million units discarded daily.

Nevertheless, Gaetos said that MCWM is well prepared to meet the expected increase in demand for landfills, regardless of the type of waste in question.

“Plastic has been an environmental issue even before the pandemic. With the public utilizing personal safety implements such as face masks and face shields regularly, we are well prepared to accommodate the increased demand for proper waste management of such plastic waste products, along with treated infectious waste,” Gaetos said.

Whether it is treated hospital and industrial waste or household garbage, MCWM has been helping its LGU clients and corporate customers meet their waste disposal needs for over 20 years, in full compliance with the government’s Ecological Solid Waste Management Act since the first day of the company’s operations.

“The garbage crisis is not something new. It is a very real issue that unfortunately doesn’t get as much coverage as it should,” said Gaetos.

“The key is to acknowledge these points and work together to solve them through efforts from the individual, community, local, and national levels. MCWM is working closely with local government units, medical facilities, and our peers in the industry to ensure that we all live in safe, clean spaces not only during this pandemic but even once we are finally out of it.” she further said.

MCWM is the country’s first-ever engineered sanitary landfill operating in Sitio Kalangitan, Clark Special Economic Zone.

It is the exclusive developer of the solid waste management system of the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, including New Clark City.

The 100-hectare landfill can handle waste of up to 4,000 tons per day, which services leading multinationals in the consumer products and petroleum industries as well as over 90 LGUs including the capital cities of Pampanga, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan.