Demonstrating and promoting best techniques and practices for reducing healthcare waste to avoid environmental release of dioxin and mercury


Environmental contaminants of global concern include significant quantities of healthcare waste from the activities of healthcare facilities and services (e.g. hospitals, clinics, immunization campaigns, etc.) and healthcare waste treatment and disposal methods need to be applied. As health systems are strengthened and healthcare coverage expanded in developing countries through efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the releases of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other persistent toxic substances (PTS) to the environment can increase substantially. This is often an unintended consequence of choices in materials and processes that seek to improve health outcomes.

The proposed project is a global demonstration project that will work with seven countries to demonstrate and promote best practices and techniques for healthcare waste management with the aim of minimizing or eliminating releases of POPs and mercury to the environment. The participating countries are Argentina, India, Latvia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Senegal and Vietnam. 

The contaminants to be addressed by this project are the unintentionally produced POPs listed in Annex C of the Stockholm Convention (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, PCBs and HCB) and mercury. These contaminants are transported globally on air currents and by other means; they are toxic in small quantities; they bio-accumulate up the food chain; and they have caused documented harm to public health and the environment at locations far from the original source of their release. 

Incineration and open burning of healthcare waste are the main sources of dioxins in healthcare, and are major modes of transport for mercury. Mercury spills and the breakage or inappropriate disposal of mercury-containing devices, such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers, are the principal ways by which mercury from health facilities enters the environment. 

The project will demonstrate and replicate best techniques and practices to minimize the generation of healthcare waste and to utilize less toxic materials as appropriate. It will also demonstrate the effectiveness of non-burn healthcare waste treatment technologies that avoid the generation of unintentional POPs. Furthermore, the project will support the promulgation of effective policies; the institutionalization of training programmes; and the dissemination of information nationally and internationally in order to promote sustainability, wider replicability and the scaling-up of best techniques and practices. It will also demonstrate and replicate interim measures to properly manage mercury spills and the disposal of broken mercury instruments, with the goal of minimizing environmental releases while also protecting worker and patient health.

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What are the project's key results?

  • Best practices for healthcare waste management demonstrated, documented and made replicable
  • Appropriate non-incineration healthcare waste treatment technologies successfully deployed and demonstrated
  • Best practices for management of mercury waste demonstrated, documented and made replicable and use of mercury-free devices promoted
  • New and/or enhanced training programmes established to build capacity for the implementation of best practices and appropriate technologies beyond model facilities and programmes
  • National policies aimed at replicating and sustaining best techniques and practices explored and where possible initiated
  • Project results disseminated to all stakeholders for awareness raising aimed at their application

Finance, Executing and Implementing Agency

Project Number Funding Executing Agency Implementing Agency
58547 Funding (GEF): US$859,635 Government and other partners’ co-funding: US$1,040,000 Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) Vietnam Environment Administration, MONRE

Delivery in Previous Fiscal Year

Year    Delivery (USD)
2009 2,321.94
2010 51,778.72
2011 449,813

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