IIT Kharagpur Study Proposes Waste Management Policy during Pandemic Crisis

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kharagpur, Covid-19 is impacting our daily lives in an unprecedented way, with one of the major impacts being on waste management programs across the world. While reduced economic activities due to COVID-19 have certainly made air and water cleaner as per many reports, change in the dynamics of plastic, food, and biomedical waste generation has however stirred the woes of solid waste management. A recent study by IIT Kharagpur researchers has led to the formulation of a set of environmental recommendations for solid waste management under the pandemic situation. The researchers have explored the challenges faced by the solid waste management sector, typically cases in biomedical waste, plastic waste, and food waste management, during the pandemic and the underlying opportunities to fill existing loopholes in the system.
The study led by Prof. Brajesh Kr. Dubey and his research group at IIT Kharagpur’s Dept. of Civil Engineering, has laid emphasis on the avenues of circular economy, sustainable technologies and development of green business models by analyzing the economic prospects in the post-pandemic world.
“It should be well understood that the mess created by the COVID-19 crisis should not be solved at the expense of solving the longer-term issue of the climate crisis. The post-COVID-19 world would need a systems-level approach on a global scale to address the issue of solid waste management and protect our environment through economic stimulus with low carbon footprint,” said Dubey.
The study recommends the adoption of new technologies in solid waste management by means of socially viable designs scoring high on environmental and economic feasibility. Incentive policy could be introduced for adopting homogenous plastics, eco-friendly bioplastics, biodegradable materials with higher recyclability. This would enable the standardization of plastic products and packaging leading to economic recycling models. AI-powered sustainable technologies can be deployed to manage efficient sorting and recycling of waste. This shall be further supported by means of the ‘refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle’ mantra of the circular economy.
“A typical example could be food waste management. Local production and consumption of food along with recycling and reuse leads to the reduction of food waste generation and recycling of food waste. Such models need to be introduced in overall solid waste management as well along with spreading awareness about the concept,” remarked researcher Hari Bhakta Sharma.
Another area the study has focused on is the involvement of human resources in waste management. The researchers advocate for the provision of critical status to sanitation workers due to the risk involved in their work during a pandemic situation. This would involve supporting the educational and healthcare needs of their family members as well. Workers handling biomedical wastes also need to be trained adequately of international standards. Awareness needs to be created by means of universally accepted color-coded segregation of biomedical waste for proper classification of infectious waste, preventing excessive waste generation.
The researchers believe increasing public visibility through media and other platforms could indirectly bring behavioral and attitudinal changes in society. However, they also prioritized the need for inclusion of waste management in the disaster management protocol including response measures and operational guidelines. The study has been published in the international journal of ‘Resources, Conservation & Recycling’

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