KUCHING: The Sarawak government has urged members of the public not to dispose of used personal protective equipment (PPE) indiscriminately as they will pose a threat to the environment.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said while the Covid-19 pandemic situation had improved the air quality and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emission in different cities around the world in 2020, including the lessening of water pollution, there were also negative consequences for the environment.
“For health and sanitary purposes, the increased use of PPE such as face masks, hand gloves, hand sanitisers and disinfectants have become a major threat to public health and the environment,” he said.
Abang Johari was speaking at the 9th Sarawak Chief Minister’s Environmental Award (CMEA) 2019/2020 presentation ceremony at Imperial Hotel here.
The event was live-streamed on the Facebook page of the Sarawak Public Communication Unit yesterday (Sept 13).
Citing the Asian Development Bank 2020 report, Abang Johari said cities like Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Bangkok had experienced increases in medical waste, producing 154 to 280 million tonnes more per day than before the pandemic.
“Estimation is that at the 80 percent face masks acceptance rate and 27 percent urban population, Malaysia may produce 7.05 million total daily used face masks for its 32.4 million population,” he said.
Abang Johari said since Sarawak was expected to produce 628,000 daily used face masks for its 2.91 million population, these masks would have a major impact on the environment if they were not disposed of properly.
“Wind or rain water may deposit the used PPE into our streams or rivers and thus, pollute the rivers with the deadly virus that could possibly reinfect us.
“Therefore, I urge members of our public to be careful of the third wave of Covid-19 and to be aware of the dangers of indiscriminate disposal of the PPE,” he stressed.