Karnataka

Collection centres get an influx of used disposable and cloth masks with dry waste

Kumuda, a waste-picker who manages the Dry Waste Collection Centre in J.P. Nagar ward, sorts used disposable masks and reusable cloth masks.

Kumuda, a waste-picker who manages the Dry Waste Collection Centre in J.P. Nagar ward, sorts used disposable masks and reusable cloth masks.

Every day, Kumuda, a waste-picker who manages the Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) in J.P. Nagar ward, sorts used disposable masks and reusable cloth masks that have been discarded with dry waste. Over the last few weeks, with cases surging, people have been doubling masking, with disposable and cloth masks. But cloth masks, instead of being reused, are discarded. What’s also worrying is that more often than not, masks are not segregated.

“At the very least, we get over a hundred used masks every day. Though they are supposed to be discarded along with household biomedical and sanitary waste, it lands up in the DWCCs,” said Ms. Kumuda.

Last year, fed up with finding disposable masks in dry waste, which is a health hazard, many operators and managers of DWCCs had made short videos explaining how to responsibly dispose of medical waste. “After that, the numbers dropped. However, over the past two-three weeks, people are back to discarding masks with regular dry waste,” she added.

This seems to be a common practice across the 130-odd centres across the city, and not just the DWCC at J.P. Nagar. Rajesh Babu, founder of Swachh, an organisation that manages 27 DWCCs, said that the influx of masks at the centres seems to coincide with the spike in COVID-19 cases.

As per the health department advisory, many citizens were double masking – wearing one disposable, medical grade mask and another cloth mask.

During the second wave, the BBMP, in a pilot project, had authorised DWCCs to be drop off points for household biomedical waste. From here, Mr. Babu explained, the authorized collector would pick it up. “However, after the COVID-19 cases came down, this has also stopped. The BBMP can revive this, given that the household biomedical waste, mainly comprising used masks, has started coming to the DWCCs again,” he said.

Vishwanath C., programme manager (DWCC), Hasiru Dala, an organisation that manages a few centres in the city, said the waste pickers had been trained to segregate the masks and store them separately. “We treat this as hazardous waste,” he said.

But when contacted, Sarfaraz Khan, BBMP Joint Commissioner (Solid Waste Management), said that the civic body had already tied-up with four different service providers for picking up household biomedical waste from these DWCCs for incineration. “Service providers need to be fixed only in Rajarajeshwarinagar and Dasarahalli zones,” he said and added that citizens can drop off household biomedical waste at the DWCCs separately for responsible disposal.


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Printable version | May 25, 2022 9:33:43 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/collection-centres-get-an-influx-of-used-disposable-and-cloth-masks-with-dry-waste/article38288764.ece