Revealed: wastes from COVID-19

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PEOPLE quarantined for 14 days are generating an estimated 32 tonnes of solid wastes during their time in quarantine.

These normally increase when a person spends more than 14 days in the centre.

Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology permanent secretary, Dr Melchior Mataki revealed this in his paper presented to journalists at a media workshop on ‘Reporting Extractive Industries and Endemic Species in Solomon Islands’ at Heritage Park Hotel last Thursday.

His paper focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the environment.

Mataki said solid waste and liquid generation from quarantine stations had direct impacts on the environment.

“Given that quarantine process has now been in operation for nearly one year (52 weeks), the average solid waste generation rate in Honiara was estimated at 0.97kg/person/day,” he said.

“2,378 persons that have passed through the quarantine stations managed by the Government, and the average period of quarantine is 14 days, about 32 tonnes of solid wastes has been generated so far,” Mataki added.

He said three of the largest quarantine stations have had their septic tanks desludged once or twice already in the same period; this is also indicative of the high level of liquid wastes generated as well.

He said a notable impact of the quarantine process is the heavy use of single use disposable items to minimize the potential for COVID-19 transmission in catering and personal protective services.

“Nationals that pass through the quarantine process are provided with 3 hot meals per day.

“All meals are packed in single use disposable plates and cups, and served with disposable cutlery,” he said.

Mataki said each person is also provided with 10 disposable facemasks per week.

He said since mandatory quarantine started last year up to 10th March 2021, a total of 2,378 nationals (excluding 640 foreigners) have passed through the quarantine stations.

“On weekly basis, the persons that passed through quarantine generated an estimated 99,876 disposable plates, 49,938 disposable cups, 49,938 disposable spoons and 16,646 facemasks.

“On average a person in quarantine stays for 14 days and this doubles the quantity of items that eventually reach Ranadi landfill,” he said.

Mataki said because of potential transmission through disposable items used in quarantine stations, all wastes from quarantine stations are burned on daily basis at Ranadi landfill giving rise to gaseous emissions.

He said to aid combustion of the wastes, about 25 litres of petrol is used on weekly basis.

“In addition, compulsory testing for COVID-19 and infection protection control measures generate, biomedical wastes, and plastic wastes arising from personal protection equipment.

“Beside waste arising from persons in quarantine, the mass campaign for the use of facemasks and hand sanitisers by the public also increased solid waste generation and subsequent flow into the environment,” he said.