Medical wastes being delivered to a waste treatment zone in HCM City’s Hóc Môn District. There is a significant increase in plastic and medical wastes in the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is piling pressure on its ability to handle them. Photo: nld.com.vn
HCM CITY - The surge in plastic and coronavirus-related wastes in HCM City is creating huge pressure on its waste treatment system.
The HCM City Urban Environment Company Limited (CITENCO) collects and treats all wastes from hospitals and quarantine facilities.
Cao Văn Tuấn, head of its environmental technology and quality control department, said the daily medical waste output had increased to nearly 40 tonnes a day, including 12 tonnes from quarantine zones, since the outbreak, and the treatment capacity is 42 tonnes.
If coronavirus-related waste continues to grow, it would lead to an overload at the treatment plant, according to Tuấn.
Besides having equipment prescribed for handling hazardous wastes, they also need to safeguard people handling the wastes.
Wastes from locked-down areas are mainly collected by local authorities who spray them with disinfectants before sending to trash dumps.
With social distancing in place the volume of goods packaged and delivered to consumers’ homes and the use of plastic bags have increased exponentially.
According to Nguyễn Gia Thanh, an online seller in Tân Bình District, he has to use six kilogrammes of plastic bags a month for packaging now, twice the usual rate.
Customers want goods to be covered with more plastic bags as a virus prevention measure.
“Plastic is the most economical solution for a hard situation despite its negative impact on the environment,” he said.
Nguyễn Văn Tốt, a garbage collector in Hóc Môn District, said while normally plastic accounted for 50 per cent of the garbage, it had now increased to 60-65 per cent.
Wastes are now mainly in landfills and plastic wastes, though increasing, are not being sorted, and this portends serious harm to the environment.
More companies needed to treat COVID-related waste
The HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment is seeking approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to add more companies capable of receiving and treating COVID-19-related waste.
Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mỹ, deputy director of the city department, said the list of added businesses included Việt Úc Environment JSC, Mộc An Châu Company, Saigon Green Biotechnology Company and Tâm Sinh Nghĩa Investment Development JSC.
These companies had invested in industrial waste and hazardous-waste incinerators, but they were still in the testing phase. But due to the growing coronavirus-related waste in the city, the department asked the ministry to approve the use of these companies' waste incinerators to treat waste related to Covid-19.
CITENCO is currently the only company that receives and treats Covid-19 related waste in HCM City.
According to CITENCO, the amount of garbage in quarantine areas and field hospitals is nearly 100 tonnes per day, exceeding its processing capacity.
Huỳnh Minh Nhựt, director of CITENCO, said the process of collecting and treating medical waste and waste from isolation areas was being carried out under strict safety standards, and garbage collection workers all wear protective gear.
Medical waste is taken to Đông Thạnh waste treatment zone in Hóc Môn District where it undergoes chemical and thermal disinfection. After the trash is burned, the ash is solidified and buried in a location reserved for hazardous waste.
Other waste, such as face masks and protective clothing, is treated separately according to regulations, while the rest can be sent to landfills to be treated by incineration and burial. VNS