Medical Waste Surges in Indonesia Amid COVID-19 Spikes

The Indonesian Hospital Association (IHA) said on Monday that the amount of medical waste produced across Indonesia has increased from 290 tonnes per day to 493 tonnes per day due to COVID-19.

IHA Secretary-General Dr. Lia Partakusuma said that as the coronavirus rages, hospitals and other healthcare and isolation facilities produced so many medical wastes which were not immediately incinerated.

“Incinerators are so full that occasionally medical waste does not get picked up on time, putting workers and patients at risk due to the highly infectious nature of the waste,” Dr. Partakusuma told CNA.

CNA reported that the number of infectious medical wastes, from face masks to COVID-19 test cartridges, has been filling Indonesia’s landfills.

Indonesian activist Bagong Suyoto, who has been working on the waste issue for more than 20 years, told CNA that medical wastes were hidden beneath the layers of the ordinary trash, and how the infectious trash ended up in landfills would be hard to investigate.

Dr. Partakusuma said there was a discrepancy between the medical waste produced and the actual number of medical wastes disposed of by incinerators, about 70-90 tonnes were unaccounted for.

“This is not a new problem. This is an old problem becoming worse because of COVID-19,” Dr. Partakusuma added.

Ministry of Environment Director-General on Waste and Hazardous Material Management Rosa Viven Ratnawati said the Indonesian government has taken several steps to mitigate the problems related to medical waste management and also promised to investigate the issue of unaccounted medical wastes.

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