▶️ Local PPE dump exposes bigger problem of pandemic waste

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How did we go from this…

“It means that we’re getting a whole bunch of stuff that we desperately need,” state officials said about PPE shipments in April 2020.

To this…

“Yesterday one of our supervisors came to my office and said ‘hey we had a load of PPE from St.Charles show up,” said Chad Centola the Operations Manager for Deschutes County Solid Waste Department.

Palettes of masks, booties, and gowns, all expired and headed to the dump.

It’s a side effect of the scramble for equipment early in the pandemic.

“The PPE that many providers were used to became unavailable due to high demand and supply chain issues,” said Morgan Emerson, the Public Information Officer for Deschutes County Public Health.

St. Charles told us in a statement “At the time, we ordered whatever PPE was available, including certain substandard types of PPE we would not have previously considered using.”

“And as the supply chain and demand have stabilized over the past year or so,” Emerson said “we have been able to acquire, and many local medical providers have been able to acquire, PPE that they typically use.”

So those 3D printed face shields, hand-made masks, and expired PPE are no longer needed by healthcare professionals.

With such a high supply of PPE just about everywhere, it’s no surprise you can walk into your local grocery store and get a free mask.

Rite Aid and Fred Meyer offer up to three free N95 masks to customers.

According to St.Charles, “[The PPE] was offered to other health care organizations, schools, counties, construction firms and religious groups, which in turn distributed some of it to homeless individuals. We also consulted with a third-party vendor who determined the PPE could not be resold.”

“We see them but we deal with 6-700 tons of waste out here a day and it just kind of blends into the mix,” Centola said.

In a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 193 countries created roughly 8.4 million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste, 22% of that waste coming from North and South America.

And while hospitals transition from a state of PPE desperation to PPE overload, that number will likely rise.

 

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