Global analysis of healthcare waste in the context of COVID-19: status, impacts and recommendations

Globally, safe waste management services for healthcare waste are lacking, especially in least developed countries. The latest available data (from 2019) indicate that 1 in 3 healthcare facilities globally do not safely manage healthcare waste. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to large increases in healthcare waste, straining under resourced healthcare facilities and exacerbating environmental impacts from solid waste. This report quantifies the additional COVID-19 healthcare waste generated, describes current healthcare waste management systems and their deficiencies, and summarizes emerging best practices and solutions to reduce the impact of waste on human and environmental health. The recommendations included in the report build on actions in the WHO manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19: prescriptions and actionables for a healthy and green recovery. They target the global, national and facility levels to promote a “win–win” scenario for COVID-19 PPE use, testing and vaccinations that are safe and support environmental sustainability.