Temples barred from burning Covid waste Disposal must be at industrial plants

Temples barred from burning Covid waste  Disposal must be at industrial plants

A man walks past piles of infectious waste at a field hospital in Samut Prakan province last month. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The Public Health Ministry has announced a safety measure allowing only industrial waste and power plants to incinerate Covid-19 infectious waste.

Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said infected waste must be burned at a temperature of at least 760 degrees Celsius. Fumes must be eliminated at a temperature of 1,000C. Such disposal can be handled only at industrial level and not by any temple crematorium, he said.

Infectious waste includes plastic waste, gloves, personal protective equipment and antigen test kits.

Waste has accumulated across the country from 1,115 field hospitals, 4,700 community isolation sites and 57,325 home isolation locations. A field survey on Aug 20 found that a total of 1,500 tonnes of infectious waste needed to be safely destroyed and the amount now exceeded that figure.

Dr Suwanchai Wattanayingcha­roenchai, director-general of the Health Department, said those who work with infectious waste, need to be trained to protect themselves. They must wear protective suits at all times, carefully handle the waste to avoid accidental contamination.

After work, they must remove all protective gear and clean themselves immediately.

The new rules follow reports that some temples burnt infectious waste in their crematoriums as part of waste management efforts in their communities. Some of the crematoriums, some of which were in Kanchanaburi, Trat and Rayong reportedly malfunctioned.

Pollution Control Department director-general, Atthapol Charoenchansa, voiced concerns about disposing of waste in crematoriums, saying they burn at lower temperatures than incinerators in waste plants making destroying infectious waste more risky.

Crematoriums do not have mechanisms to treat emissions from incineration, emitting toxic fumes, fine dust, and heavy metal in the air, he said.

He said the infectious waste should be picked up by municipality and sub-district administrative organisations and burned in incinerators specifically for waste, which have high heat and an air treatment system.

Environmental expert Sonthi Kotchawat of the Thai Academic Environment Association, said local administrations in many areas have disposed of infectious waste in crematoriums because they have no way to get rid of the sheer volume of waste from Covid-19 patients, which has risen to over 300 tonnes per day. Some 54 tonnes are estimated to accumulate each day.

If waste is not disposed of in seven days, it must be stored at 10C to limit the virus’ lifespan and delay decomposition.

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