Activities by Healthcare facilities represent 3-8 percent of the climate change footprint in developed-country settings. These statistics indicate that hospitals and healthcare facilities share huge responsibilities in protecting the environment and contributing to its development. Healthcare Waste is the total waste generated by hospitals, healthcare establishments and research facilities in diagnosis, treatment, immunization and associated research. According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates approximately 1.48 million tonnes of healthcare waste per year, thus, the registered healthcare facilities generate 4,057 tonnes of waste per day, out of which 2,919 tonnes of waste is treated while rest 28 percent of the waste goes untreated on daily basis.
A hospital in India generates around 0.5 to 2 kg of waste per bed per day with 70-80 percent of that being general waste, 15-20 percent infectious waste, 5-10 percent pathological waste, 0.5 to 1 percent being chemical and sharp wastes.
The waste management cycle involves collection, segregation, transportation, treatment and disposal of organic, recyclable and inert waste. These wastes can be used for land filling, incineration, recycling and composting. Currently, waste management in India commonly means dumping at landfill sites. In most cities of India, outsourced private agencies and municipalities do the waste collection.
Some restraints faced by the sector are insufficient focus on policies and procedures by Government facilities and little regard for stringent and mandatory laws at state, district and city levels. Lack of a proper waste collection and transportation system, common biomedical waste treatment facilities add to the pressures. The regional distribution is also highly skewed.
Healthcare waste treatments have seen a many technological advancements in recent times. Broadly, these treatments are categorized into three types: – Thermal, Mechanical and Irradiation. Thermal technology uses heat to decontaminate instruments and equipment; well-known technologies are autoclave, hydroclave, incinerator and microwave. The second category, Mechanical, includes compaction, shredding and pulverization. The third and last category involves Irradiation – Plasma Pyrolysis that involves exposing the waste matter to ultraviolet or ionized radiation.
Healthcare waste management is gaining importance day by day in India. Many hospitals have started to look into this area more seriously than before. Proper waste management is indispensable for hospitals as it leads to numerable benefits that include, cleaner and healthier surroundings, reduction in the incidence of hospital acquired and general infections, reduction in the cost of infection control within the hospital and low incidence of occupational health hazards. All of this leading to reduction in average length of hospital stay.
Frost & Sullivan recommends a highly effective healthcare waste management system wherein strong control and understanding of the entire process is required. The segregation step in the waste management process would bring in various financial, health and environmental benefits; its proper understanding could lead industrys contribution towards a desired ‘Green World’.