Many Covid-19 patients, who are being treated at home, are disposing of their waste in regular bins
Waste collectors are at a heightened risk of contracting Covid-19 as people are throwing out personal protective equipment (PPE) in household dustbins without first disinfecting it.
Among the waste are: gloves, masks, head covers, and protective clothing.
Even many Covid-19 patients, who are being treated at home, are throwing out their waste in regular bins.
Such waste is handed over to primary waste collectors who go door-to-door to collect rubbish.
"We are dumping the waste in the secondary dumping station as we did before," said Manik Mia, a waste collector in the capital's Bashabo.
He added, "We have found gloves and masks in the waste from most houses. It has now become common practice."
Professor Dr M Maksudur Rahman of the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Dhaka said waste collectors are at high risk of contracting Covid-19.
"The virus can also contaminate the environment through the waste and that might increase human infections," he warned.
Manik said homeless people or slum children sometimes take masks from the garbage and wear them.
Prof Maksudur said, "There are possibilities that those slum children will be infected. Also, in slums, people live in cramped conditions, so the virus may spread fast there."
Prof Dr Sultana Shahana Banu, a virologist and infectious disease specialist, said waste disposal is a critical task during this pandemic as it can lead to more disastrous situations.
"PPE used by the public must be disinfected and destroyed. Otherwise, there is a possibility it will be reused."
The virus can spread more through PPE even though people using it think they are protected, she said.
The professor said there are guidelines for using PPE which people do not follow.
"So, it can be a killer for users and people around them. This is why the public should not use it. Masks, alone, are enough for them. They can also use goggles," she added.
Commodore Md Badrul Amin, chief waste management officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, said, "Considering the risk, we are going to collect such waste separately. We are providing separate containers for dumping PPE – including gloves and masks."
A separate dust reservoir will be set up at the secondary dumping station for such waste and it will be burned in the landfill afterwards, he said.
Badrul said the process will be initiated after July 7.
We are now working to make people aware so that they keep such waste in a separate bin, he added.
Commodore M Saidur Rahman, chief waste management officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, said, "We have taken initiatives in this regard. We are providing three lakh safety bags where people will dump such waste."
"Primary collectors will collect such waste separately every Saturday and Tuesday. We made a contract with Prism who will take the waste from us and dump it in compliance with the health guidelines," he added.