The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on human health and the economy are intensifying day by day, including aspects not yet adequately in the spotlight. These include the emergency of household medical waste.

In Italy, waste management in hospitals is regulated by Presidential Decree 254/2003 (G.U. 211/2003), mainly addressed to Healthcare Facilities, which is the implementing regulation of Legislative Decree 22/1997. But with the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, the safe management of household waste has also become a critical aspect. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines, and other objects can easily mix with household garbage. At the same time, it must be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately. These must be stored separately from other household waste streams and collected by specialized waste management or municipal waste management operators. Guidelines on recycling specificities disposal of such waste are detailed in the Factsheet of the Basel Convention on Medical or Medical Waste.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous waste and other wastes. It is almost universal, with 187 parties.

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, or SAB Secretariat, assists the three main multilateral environmental agreements governing chemicals and hazardous waste.  SAB Executive Secretary Rolph Payet said, "All sectors of society are coming together to defeat the virus collectively and to minimize the human and economic impact of COVID-19 worldwide. In addressing this enormous, unprecedented challenge, decision-makers at all levels - international, national, municipal, city and district - are urged to make every effort to ensure that waste management, including medical and household waste, receives the attention - indeed the priority - it requires. It is essential to ensure the impact minimization of these potentially hazardous waste streams on human health and the environment.

Parties to the Basel Convention are currently working on a guidance document in this regard and, although not yet finalized, a first draft can be found at:  http://www.basel.int/?tabid=8227 .

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