More than 200,000 tons of medical waste - much of it plastic waste - has accumulated worldwide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
According to WHO estimates, the billions of vaccinations since the beginning of the pandemic have generated at least 144,000 tons of used needles, syringes and collection containers.
In addition, 87,000 tons of protective clothing were delivered by the United Nations between March 2020 and November 2021 alone.
Coronavirus tests contain up to 2,600 additional tons of waste and 731,000 litres of chemical waste. Protective masks for private use are not included in the estimates, the WHO said further.
"COVID-19 has forced the world to reckon with the gaps and neglected aspects of the waste stream and how we produce, use and discard of our health care resources, from cradle to grave," said Maria Neira, head of environment, climate change and health at the WHO.
The organization called for strategies to protect people and the environment from poorly disposed of protective suits, test kits and vaccination paraphernalia.
Even before the pandemic, the WHO had warned that a third of all health care facilities were not able to dispose of their waste properly.
The additional Covid-related waste poses a health and environmental risk to medical workers and people living near landfills, it said.