The Ministry of Environment is installing 50 incinerators to burn medical waste from Covid-19 treatment and quarantine centres in the capital and 20 provinces to solve the problem head-on as about 100 tonnes of this waste was piling up per day across the country.
While inspecting the installation of a medical waste incinerator near a landfill site in Prey Thom commune’s Damnak Chang Eur village of Kep province and town on August 28, environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the installation of the incinerators in Kep will be completed in the next two weeks and will be used for burning four to seven tonnes of medical waste from Covid-19 treatment and quarantine centres per day.
“We have to carefully manage waste from these areas so that it will not be dumped in a normal landfill, which could lead to transmission to others. That’s why the ministry made provision in the form of the incinerators for burning this medical waste,” he said.
He added that the Ministry of Health, together with local authorities, had already prepared and managed the waste and this additional arrangement was to support the existing mechanisms.
“Because the burning of this medical waste is still limited, the waste coming from quarantine sites, especially from Covid-19 treatment centres, needs to be managed effectively,” Pheaktra said.
Kep provincial governor Som Piseth welcomed the technical support.
“These incinerators will be put into use in the next two weeks for burning waste from quarantine and Covid-19 treatment centres, especially medical waste. So, this hazardous waste will be managed in the most effective way,” he said.
Citing reports provided by 25 capital and provincial environment departments, Pheaktra said quarantine and Covid-19 treatment centres currently produce about 100 tonnes of solid waste per day.
He said Siem Reap, Mondulkiri and Battambang provinces were already using incinerators to burn medical waste, while the ministry provided technical support for solid waste management from the centres.
Pheaktra said Cambodia as a whole produces more than 10,000 tonnes of rubbish per day, or nearly four million tonnes per year. Of that total, organic waste accounted for about 68 per cent, plastic waste was more than 20 per cent and solid or hazardous waste was around 10 per cent.
The environment ministry also called on people to properly package rubbish and sort waste according to its type – especially waste from medical treatment centres – and to avoid throwing it away in an untidy manner that detracts from the beauty of cities and the wellbeing of the people.
On August 27, deputy Phnom Penh governor Koeut Chhe warned that Covid-19 patients in the capital who are undergoing home-based treatment and those who care for them could face legal consequences if they fail to properly dispose of waste in order to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, in a manner outlined in recent municipal hall instructions.
Chhe noted that most patients who undergo treatment at home follow the instructions, while a few “reckless” individuals had been warned of the potential ramifications of their negligence on the matter.
In an appeal to the public, he said: “If you see any patients getting treatment at home who are not fully complying with waste management policies, please report them to the authorities, such as the village or commune chief, or commune police chief.”
Chhe stressed that the edification of offenders is prioritised over legal action, but warned that if these briefings fail to deter repeat incidents, legal options remain on the table.
According to the recent instructions, Covid-19 patients under home-based treatment and their caregivers must place infectious waste in a bag and keep it separate from other waste.
The bag must be disinfected inside and out, remain on the premises for 72 hours, and then be placed in a separate yellow biohazard bag before leaving it outside for collection. In lieu of a yellow biohazard bag, any yellow bag may be used as long as the infectious nature of its contents is clearly indicated.
Covid-19 patients must have only mild to moderate symptoms to be treated at home. Home-based patients must immediately seek medical assistance or call the 115 hotline should they experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure or loss of speech or movement.