HAZARDOUS WASTE

Concerns as used masks strewn all over Nyeri

Discarded outside homes, offices, on the road, streets, drainage systems

In Summary

• Per guidelines, the public should treat masks and gloves as contaminated items and must be disposed of as infectious waste.

• If no special garbage bins are available, residents should spray recommended disinfectant on both sides of used masks, fold them up before putting them into a sealed bin liner in a dustbin.

Single use masks disposed of carelessly on a dumping ground in Ngangarithi area of Nyeri town on Tuesday
Single use masks disposed of carelessly on a dumping ground in Ngangarithi area of Nyeri town on Tuesday
Image: / EUTYCAS MUCHIRI

Nyeri residents have raised concerns over the haphazard disposal of used masks in the county.

Discarded masks are a common sight outside homes, offices, on the road, streets, drainage systems and even in dumping containers.

In April, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) gave national guidelines for the management of Covid-19 waste.

 

Nyeri Health chief officer Newton Wambugu admitted that the county has not been able to adhere to the protocols in public areas due to scarcity of resources.

He said, however, that protocols have been adhered to in all health facilities in the county. Infectious waste generated in hospitals, he said, is incinerated.

Residents interviewed by the Star said they were not aware of such guidelines and accused the county government of failing to educate them on how to dispose of masks.

Rachel Wahu, a trader in Nyeri town said she was not aware of such protocols. She uses non-reusable masks.

“I just fold the mask and dump it in a dustbin,” she said.

She blames lack of sensitisation campaigns as the reason behind people dropping used masks anywhere, including the streets of Nyeri town.

Trader Tabitha Murugi said she disposes of used masks in a dustbin in her house or burns them.

 

She said masks are strewn all over the town's streets and expressed fears that it is possible for street families who cannot afford masks to collect and wear them for fear of arrest by police, putting them at risk of contracting the virus.

She called on the county government to provide special dustbins in the town for people to dispose of used masks.

David Ngari said every day he finds both reusable and single-use masks dropped on the road.

Nema has noted that there has been an increased use of safety materials against Covid-19 increasing generation of waste that can be infectious.

The authority gave guidelines on how to manage Covid-19-related waste in public, community and household levels and discouraged the mixing of contaminated masks or gloves with household waste.

“In the worst case scenario, if someone just throws a used mask on the street, someone might pick it up, or worse try to collect them to sell as second-hand. For the safety of others and themselves, the public have to take care of their used masks,” Nema said in the protocols document.

The guidelines also proposed disinfection to help ensure the used masks do not become a second source of the coronavirus infection.

Per the guidelines, the public should treat masks and gloves as contaminated items and must be disposed of as infectious waste.

Special bins should be set up at centralised points and this should be supervised by public health officers or their agents.

Owners or the management of gated communities, apartments, residential areas, factories, institutions and office blocks are also required to provide medical waste pedal bins that will have biohazard bin liners.

Public areas should be treated as potentially infectious and owners are required to provide coloured leak-proof bags

Licensed hazardous waste handlers should be engaged in residential areas to collect and transport the infectious waste for final disposal in accordance with the set regulations.

In rural and small urban centres, the protocols state, county governments should provide the same waste bins to be placed either at the chiefs camps, ward offices, or health clinics and any other appropriate designated places communicated to the public.

“Collection of such hazardous waste from such designated places shall be done through a licensed infectious waste handler,” it states.

In public places, including markets and bus terminals, the county government should provide Covid-19 related medical waste pedal bins.

The containers should have biohazard bin liners and labelled infectious waste.

If no special garbage bins are available, residents are advised to spray disinfectant on both sides of their used masks with recommended disinfectants and fold them up before putting them into a sealed bin liner in the dustbin.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the protocols would be shared with counties for implementation.

Edited by A.N

Masks disposed of in Ngangarithi area, Nyeri town, on Tuesday
Masks disposed of in Ngangarithi area, Nyeri town, on Tuesday
Image: /EUTYCAS MUCHIRI