Medical waste treatment Killarney Gardens SA 2019

South Africa should expect a surge in medical waste during third wave

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Waste and recycling company Averda, which has extensive medical waste treatment operations in South Africa reports that they treated over 600 000 kilograms of Covid waste in January this year.

“This represents a significant increase in volumes from previous months which we (Averda) were used to,” says Justice Tootla, Managing Director of Averda South Africa. Only a month prior, in December 2020 at the peak of the second wave, this number was just over 50% less, with 350 415 kgs of Covid waste collected and treated.

Tootla added that even though February numbers have shown a decrease and are predicted to continue to drop over the next month, healthcare facilities should use the second wave as a baseline in order to prepare itself for the next wave. Many experts forecasting that the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the third wave might be worse than the first two.[i]

This includes having enough certified waste containers for items like masks, surgical gloves, and the protective clothing elements of PPE gear, to comply with new regulations.

“On top of that we need to keep in mind that the medical waste landscape will once again change with a further increase in the volume of ‘sharps’ as a result of the vaccine roll-out,” adds Tootla.

With that in mind, Averda have already made provision with all their medical waste container suppliers for the increase in the demand for sharps containers.

Tootla added “And we have already commenced with preparations for the influx of this type of medical waste and will be able to deal with the increase in demand, the collection of the waste as well as the safe disposal thereof. We have dealt with many pandemics and hazardous outbreaks over the years such as the listeriosis outbreak in 2018 and Cholera outbreaks from neighbouring countries, so treatment facilities have enough capacity to handle the waste accordingly.”

It is also important that hospitals and everyone administering the vaccine follow the prescribed guidelines, use the correct containers to dispose of used needles and follow operational procedures, minimising the risk to the staff responsible for handling this type of waste.

With no new amendments to the guidelines set out by the Waste Management Act at the start of the pandemic as well as the South African National Standards (SANS), keeping the segregation and collection of sharps waste will stay in line with SANS 10248.

“It’s important to remember that South Africa has the capacity to manage Covid waste, thanks to timely investments in specialised medical waste treatment centres by companies like Averda, who have on occasion even partnered together to ensure that national requirements are met.”