When confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks undoubtedly serve as shields to guard the general public, however, used ones pose a threat to the environment and public health.
While being made compulsory to wear in public, masks have been seen haphazardly strewn on pavements and other public places in Ghana’s various towns and cities. According to experts, those used masks lying around in the open posed risks to public health.
In the West African country, most of the solid waste, including medical ones generated in the Greater Accra region are dumped at the about 15-hectare Kpone landfill site, near the port city of Tema.
Ernest Kwabena Anorson Agyawan, landfill manager for the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) told Xinhua in an interview his outfit receives all kinds of solid waste, including medical wastes.
“Generally, we receive municipal waste, which comprises domestic, residential, industrial, hospital, and all kinds of waste. The mask that has come into the system now, we don’t also have a treatment plant or a kind of equipment that will do sorting of such waste, so we are still receiving it in bulk and dumped in the various cells,” said Agyawan.
The manager enumerates the hazards that come in handy for personnel of the landfill site amid the pandemic and appealed for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to aid them in their work.
“There are all kinds of waste that come here from hospitals, from productive industries and all chemicals mixed with the solid waste come here. We are inhaling a lot and some are inoculated into our system through the dust and exposure to the environment, ” said Agyawan, adding that they should be given PPEs like helmets, long-sleeved apparels and safety boots regularly.
William Timbillah, a 25-year-old solid waste collector, uses his motor tricycle to collect waste from the homes of residents here for a living. Being exposed to the mountains of solid waste mixed with abandoned medical supplies, William was worried that there would be a possibility that he could be infected.
Just like Timbillah, other solid waste collectors and scavengers who were at the site were not fully protected.
In the meantime, many health experts also voice their standpoints that the pandemic has presented an opportunity for the West African country to relook how it disposes of its medical wastes to avert a possible health threat.
Being fully aware of the potential spread of the pandemic through the improper disposal of face masks, the TMA said it has put in place measures to protect people.
Alfred Baah, solid waste manager for the TMA, told Xinhua the assembly has done enough education to sensitize residents about the proper disposal of the used face masks.
“We now have 240 litter bins being placed at vantage points and at the end of the day, a vehicle will come to collect the waste and deliver them to the final disposal site,” the manager said.