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IIT Bombay study suggests sustainable waste disposal in the healthcare sector

INDIIT Bombay study suggests sustainable waste disposal in the healthcare sector

KARNATAKA BENGALURU 12/05/2021 Wokers disposing Medical waste at K C General Hospital in Bengaluru . Disposing of Medical waste is a huge tusk for hospital and BBMP Photo : BHAGYA PRAKASH K
| Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K 6700


A team of researchers comprising of Dr. Anuj Dixit and Professor Pankaj Dutta from Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) carried out a study to identify the key factors for effective implementation of the circular economy model, which allows for the sustainable disposal of healthcare waste management. Their research was recently published in the Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy journal.  

The research, carried out from January 2023 to August 2023, highlights a crucial concern of medical waste generation in the country. In 2020, India produced 774 tons of biomedical waste per day. Additionally, large amounts of used, unused and infected medications, instruments, safety gear, and packaging materials are disposed of by individuals and healthcare centres, Mr. Dutta explained. Safe disposal of healthcare waste is a concern as the special methods and technologies needed for it are not easily available. Public awareness and professional training regarding healthcare waste disposal is inadequate and funds for proper planning and implementation of effective waste management systems are not enough.  

Mr. Dixit said that a ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ approach, termed as circular economy model, helps mitigate pollution and environmental damage, which a ‘take-make-dispose’ approach is likely to cause. Though the effectiveness of the circular economy model is well-proven for efficient waste management in the non-healthcare sector, it is not explored enough in the healthcare sector.

Practical implications 

The researchers collected data about how the participants of the survey rate the importance of various factors such as awareness and training about waste management, budget, use of technology, waste segregation/collection and responsibilities of various stakeholders. This data was gathered through an objective questionnaire survey from medical practitioners and other professionals from 54 healthcare organisations in India. The organisations included hospitals, nursing homes, healthcare waste recycling units, pathological laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies in the private and public sectors operational for a minimum ten years with a minimum annual revenue of ₹100 million, which indicates that they are growing organisations. “Our major challenge was to select appropriate health organisations according to their type and nature of healthcare waste,” Mr. Dutta said.  

“Initially, the policymakers may apply their efforts on important Critical Success Factors (CSFs) like ‘Technology involvement’, ‘Segregation/Collection’, ‘Monitoring & Regulation’ and ‘Product design’. Then, the least important CSFs like ‘Tax Incentives’, ‘Affixing the responsibilities of government/Manufacturer/service provider/consumer’ ‘Information visibility’ and ‘Training’ will be considered based on their importance and the adoption level of CE through a continuous improvement process. When the adoption level of CE ensures that up to the satisfactory level, the CSFs will be reevaluated,” Dr. Dixit explained.

Factors such as ‘government’s responsibility’ and ‘stakeholders’ participation’ were found to have the highest driving potential, whereas ‘segregation and collection’, though considered critical, were found to depend on other causal CSFs. ‘Information visibility and transparency’, ‘manufacturer/corporate responsibility’, ‘training and empowerment’ and ‘budget allocation’ were the factors found to impact healthcare waste management most.

Mr. Dixit said, “Implementing a circular economy in the Indian healthcare sector encounters several formidable challenges. Firstly, many healthcare facilities across the country lack the necessary infrastructure and technology to adopt a circular economy. Biomedical waste management facilities are often inadequate, hindering the proper segregation and processing of medical waste. Secondly, the financial implications of transitioning to a circular economy pose a substantial challenge. Initial investments in infrastructure, technology, and compliance with regulations can be prohibitively expensive for healthcare providers, particularly in resource-constrained settings. Thirdly, co-ordinating diverse stakeholders, including manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, and waste management companies, to implement recycling programs for medical devices and packaging materials requires careful planning and cooperation especially in a big economy like India.”   



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