Covid-19 Waste Climbs to 100 Tons a Day Nationwide

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A worker throws a bag of medical waste into an incinerator in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district on May 24, 2021. (Gerald Flynn/VOD)

The country is seeing 100 tons of solid waste produced daily from Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centers, with 50 incinerators in 21 provincial towns specially disposing of the trash, an Environment Ministry official said.

But in Phnom Penh, the city’s Medical Waste Management Unit said it still needs more help as the workload has piled up amid Covid-19.

So Simarong, deputy director of the unit, said on Tuesday that the amount of waste had reduced a little as active cases have dropped, but his staff was still dealing with about 20 tons a day.

“Currently the furnace cannot keep up,” Simarong said. “We cannot burn it all. We keep some of it and burn some of it outside, so we are facing a huge challenge and currently this cannot be solved.”

He said his Dangkao district facility had been dealing with challenges for some time, but the information appeared to have not reached Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Everyone has heard of it, they are afraid of Covid and we are also afraid of it. … People do not dare to walk near it, so our side bears a huge responsibility. But no one pays attention to it, including the government pays no attention to it,” Simarong said.

“There have been a lot of difficulties but we have no option. We must collect it because it is our obligation,” he said. Staff have told of changing into as many as 20 protective suits a day as they try to stay safe in the work.

“As you know, when it’s bad news, they don’t want it told,” Simarong said, adding that the pay of 30,000 riel a day for workers (about $7.5) was “not suitable with the scale and risk of the work.”

“It’s very little money,” he said.

Environment Ministry spokesperson Neth Pheaktra said over the weekend that according to reports from municipal and provincial environment departments around the country, about 100 tons of solid waste was being produced at quarantine and treatment centers daily.

The ministry had installed 50 incinerators in 21 provincial towns, and existing medical waste incinerators in hospitals and health centers were working to dispose of the trash.

“The installation of solid waste incinerators is an urgent action, while the management of solid waste according to a technical standard with proper trash bins, adequate means of transporting garbage and landfills according to technical standards is a strategic measure of urban solid waste management policy,” Pheaktra said.

The Phnom Penh municipal administration has advised centers to put trash from Covid-19 patients in yellow bags, spray them with disinfectant inside and out, and leave them aside for five days before putting out.

Men Kong, spokesperson for the Stung Treng provincial administration, said the province saw about 500 kg to 1 ton of waste from treatment and quarantine centers a day, but the disposal was smooth.

“We manage the waste with Covid-19 very well, and after we have done each location, we will destroy them or burn them,” he said, adding that Stung Treng was seeing around 15 to 30 new Covid-19 cases a day.

Nationwide, active Covid-19 cases have dropped significantly to under 2,500 after seeing peaks of over 12,000 active cases in May and 7,500 in July.

Pheaktra, the Environment Ministry spokesperson, said overall Cambodia produces about 4 million tons of garbage a year, or more than 10,000 tonnes daily, of which about 68 percent is organic waste, 20 percent is plastic waste and more than 10 percent is solid and hazardous waste.

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