Waste and recycling company Averda says it has treated more than 600 000 kg of Covid-19 waste in January this year.
“This represents a significant increase in the volume of medical waste, compared with those of previous months. Only a month prior, in December 2020, at the peak of the second wave, this number was just over half with 350 415 kg of Covid-19 waste collected and treated,” says Averda MD Justice Tootla.
He adds that even though the Covid-19 numbers have not drastically increased after the second wave, healthcare facilities should use the second wave as a baseline to prepare for the next wave.
Preparation for the third wave encourages health care facilities to prepare and take greater precautions for health and safety in these facilities, including having enough certified waste containers for items such as masks, surgical gloves, and the protective clothing elements of protective personal equipment gear such as plastic aprons, to comply with new regulations.
“Additionally, we need to keep in mind that the medical waste landscape will once again change with a further increase in the volume of ‘sharps’, such as needles, as a result of the vaccine roll-out,” adds Tootla.
Averda, which has extensive medical waste treatment facilities located in City Deep Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, George and Killarney Gardens has made provision for this, as it has requested medical waste container suppliers to cater for the increase in demand for ‘sharps’ containers.
“We have started 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 and the safe disposal thereof.”
By ensuring compliance to appropriate medical waste disposal, and health and safety protocols, standards within the medical sector can be maintained.
Tootla adds that Averda has dealt with many pandemics and hazardous outbreaks over the years, such as the listeriosis outbreak in 2018, and cholera outbreaks in neighbouring countries.
“Therefore, our treatment facilities have enough capacity to handle the waste accordingly.”
While South Africa only has facilities to destroy medical waste and does not currently have facilities to recycle medical waste, Averda strictly operates according to the SANS regulations and advises that this kind of high-risk waste should be packaged in multiple layers of thick plastic and boxes and sterilised twice during the process to ensure the correct and safe disposal of it. Assigned vehicles will then transport the waste to one of eight hazardous waste sites nationally.
Averda is carrying out all the incineration for quarantine sites in South Africa for Covid-19. Its incinerator, in Klerksdorp, can incinerate up to 28 t of waste a day – more than twice the capacity of other incineration facilities in the country, notes Tootla.
“As long as hospitals and everyone administering the vaccine follows the normal standard guidelines, uses the correct containers for used needles and adheres to the operational procedures, then there will be less risk when it comes to handling this type of waste.”
“It is important to remember that South Africa has the capacity to manage Covid-19 waste, owing to timely investments in specialised medical-waste treatment centres by companies such as Averda, and which, on occasion, have even joined forces to ensure that national requirements are met," concludes Tootla.