POST 01295E: NEED FOR A FEASIBILITY BASELINE FOR MEDICAL WASTE DISPOSAL METHODS 29 JULY 2008 ******************************************* Vijay Machcha from ITPI stresses the need to introduce the concept of baseline for medical waste disposal technologies just as it is done for CDM projects. ---------- Efficient waste management is crucial to ensuring a safer planet. When it comes to healthcare services, in addition to the solid municipal waste that is produced, there is also the sharps, pathological, infectious, pharmaceutical, biological, and hazardous chemical waste. There are different ways of disposing of this waste like autoclaving, microwaving, open-pit burning, incineration and non-burn technologies. A thorough comparative analysis of the various technologies on the different parameters including environmental impact, financial viability, impact of transport, etc. is yet to be undertaken. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol follows an approach of identifying the historical/current baseline of a project and compares the same with the new project to ascertain, whether the overall impact of the project on climate is positive or negative. There is need for a similar baseline analysis to assess the impact of newly proposed/adopted medical waste disposal technology. Countries in transition, which do not have the financial resources to adopt sophisticated technology, need to explore what is the most viable alternative technology that can be adopted. The age-old method of open-pit burning for waste treatment and/or mixing up the medical waste with municipal solid waste is totally unacceptable as it fails to achieve proper waste treatment and decontamination. As opposed to this, an efficient and properly managed incinerator may be a better option to effectively manage waste. However, many studies also indicate that incineration is not the best practice for medical waste management, due to the dioxin and furan emissions. Yet, continuation of the baseline condition, i.e. open pit burning, is much worse than incineration as it results in much higher hazardous emissions with direct human exposure. The other advanced technologies, like autoclaving and microwave treatments also end up with considerable quantities of active organic matter, which is later landfilled, and has resultant health and climate impact. In fact, GHG emissions of non-burn technologies are higher than that of incineration due to release of high global warming potential methane into the atmosphere and leaching. In addition, these technologies require additional energy input for their operations, which is a factor that also needs to be taken into account when determining environmental impact. In fact, there are many factors that need to be considered to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right technology for healthcare waste disposal. Among them are the consumables used in the waste management system, transport of waste to treatment plant, emission caused by operation of on-site and off-site treatment plants, emissions from external transport of waste and residues, emission from degradation and leaching of residues in landfill. Both emissions and financial costs of these factors need to be considered. In fact, if incinerators are equipped with advanced flue gas cleaning systems, it may be difficult to determine if non-burn treatment or incineration is the environmentally most preferred option. Additionally, the political climate, sensitivity of various environmental media (air, water, land) also impact choice. What is required is a comprehensive baseline that quantifies the various parameters to help countries determine the waste disposal technology that is best suited to their needs. Vijay Kumar Machcha ([firstname.lastname@example.org]email@example.com[/email]) IT Power India Post generated using Mail2Forum (http://www.mail2forum.com)
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