The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for the environment, one of which is the increasing amount of medical waste. During the pandemic, medical waste does not only come from health facilities but it could also potentially come from the domestic or household sector. The increasing use of PPE in health facilities and the use of masks by the general public during the pandemic would potentially cause an increase in the amount of medical waste.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that Jakarta can produce an additional 12,720 tonnes of medical waste in the form of gloves, PPE shirts, masks, and infusion bags for 60 days during the pandemic. Previously, Indonesia itself had produced around 290 tons of medical waste per day and 35 tons per day for the Jakarta area.
Meanwhile, the handling of medical waste in Indonesia is still limited. Out of 2,820 hospitals spread throughout Indonesia, only 83 locations have incinerators to manage their waste. The use of the incinerator itself still sparks controversy among the community because it could potentially pollute the environment.
Also, medical waste processing services in Indonesia are still limited. There are only five medical waste processing factories in Java and one in Kalimantan. Before the pandemic, there are cases of medical waste generation found scattered in the Mangrove area in Karawang in 2018. This proves that the handling of medical waste in Indonesia is still problematic and limited.
During the pandemic, this condition is certainly getting worse. Not only the increasing amount of medical waste in health facilities but now infectious waste can also be produced from the domestic sector due to the increasing use of PPE and the use of antibody test kits by the general public. As a result, this infectious waste was often mixed with domestic waste in landfills, thus threatening the life of waste-pickers and waste operators.
To prevent waste-pickers and waste operators from the virus, Greeneration Foundation has collaborated with The Coca-Cola Foundation Atlanta through The Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia to assist 2,500 waste-pickers and waste operators in 25 regions across Indonesia.
This assistance is provided in the form of a COVID-19 education module, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hygiene kits, and food packages. We expect that this program would help waste-pickers and operators during the pandemic because they are the front-liners in making our environment clean from waste pollution.