PPE Medical Waste Disposal Issues in Developing Countries

Developing nations are especially prone to poor management of medical waste disposal. This is due to a lack of appropriate systems, education, and facilities. In India, for example, there is a lack of awareness about how to properly dispose of medical waste. This, coupled with the lack of incineration facilities and poor segregation, makes the country one of the worst in terms of medical waste management. As a result, medical waste ends up in landfills where it can leak into the ground and contaminate water supplies. This can pose a serious health risk to the population. Proper medical waste management is essential to protecting public health.


In India, personal protective equipment (PPE) is often seen discarded in the environment. In addition, it is often burnt in crematoriums alongside funeral pyres. While PPE can be reused or recycled, both of these options require additional infrastructure and effort. As a result, PPE is most often disposed of through incineration. However, this practice can have harmful consequences for both the environment and public health. Burning PPE releases toxic chemicals into the air, which can contribute to air pollution and respiratory problems. In addition, the ash from burnt PPE can contaminate soil and water resources. Given the potential risks, it is important to find more sustainable ways of disposing of PPE in India. One option is to invest in proper waste management infrastructure, such as incinerators and recycling facilities. Another option is to promote awareness of the importance of proper PPE disposal among the general public. Either way, it is critical to find a solution to this growing problem.

PPE in India is often seen discarded in the environment. In addition, it is often burnt in crematoriums alongside funeral pyres.

In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across India, the country took significant steps to combat the problem of PPE disposal. Through the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India categorized PPE as “hazardous biomedical waste” and provided disposal guidelines for public observation under the Bio-Medical Waste (BMW) rules of 2016. These guidelines stipulate that PPE should be disposed of with utmost caution, and several hospitals and businesses have implemented them successfully. As a result, the amount of PPE waste being generated has decreased significantly, and the risk of exposure to hazardous materials has been reduced. India’s response to the pandemic has been praised by many for its proactive approach to tackling a complex problem.


The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a massive rollout of vaccines in Africa, totalling 435 million. However, due to major gaps in the guidelines of PPE disposal, the country struggled with high waste rates. Because of a lack of proper incinerators, most PPE burning took place in the open and in drums, which contributed to an increase in the amount of toxic emissions released into the air. This had a devastating effect on the environment, as well as on public health. In order to combat this problem, it is essential that African countries invest in proper incineration facilities and PPE disposal infrastructure. Only by taking these measures will they be able to protect their citizens and preserve the environment.

According to the World Bank, it is estimated that over 60% of the population in Africa will live in cities by 2030. This growth brings with it many challenges, one of which is how to deal with the increased amount of waste that will be generated. Improper disposal of medical waste, such as single-use gloves and face masks, can lead to toxic emissions that can damage the environment and pose a health risk to those living nearby. To help address this issue, international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have developed multi-sectoral steps to help health care workers in Africa reduce toxic emissions from improper PPE medical disposal. These steps include improving waste management infrastructure, providing training on proper medical waste disposal, and promoting the use of eco-friendly PPE. Conservation groups such as the Global Environment Facility and Health Care Without Harm are also working to support these efforts by providing funding and technical assistance. By taking these actions, it is hoped that the negative impact of medical waste on the environment and public health can be reduced.

How Do We Combat PPE Pollution in Developing Countries?

With the outbreak of COVID19, the world has been grappling with how to properly dispose of medical waste. PPE, in particular, has become a concern as it can be contaminated with the virus. Improper disposal of PPE can lead to further spread of the virus and put healthcare workers at risk. That is why it is essential that proper waste management guidelines are established at the international level. Such regulations will help countries worldwide to establish their own individual guidelines at the national level. By having such guidelines in place, we can help to prevent the spread of COVID19 and keep healthcare workers safe.

Ways We Can We Assist Developing Countries

  • Urge first-world countries to offer some financial aid assistance in assisting third-world countries in setting up waste disposal infrastructure such as sorting and disposal facilities.
  • Establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding improper handling, and disposal of PPE and other medical waste products.
  • Educate countries on medical waste, stressing that it is an environmental concern due to its highly infectious and contagious nature.
  • Promote campaigns and programs to increase awareness on how improperly disposed of PPE and biohazardous waste affects the environment and people’s health.
  • Create and enforce laws to effectively monitor and maintain compliance in regards to properly disposing of infectious PPE.

Through education and enforced compliance, developing countries will hopefully understand and respect the need for medical waste to be handled and disposed of in a correct manner.