The fight against the coronavirus pandemic has generated not only a lot of grief and suffering but also tangible waste materials, what with the now extra production and consumption of gloves, masks, face shields and other hospitable consumables.
The Government of Galicia has considered that even low-risk contaminated waste is better disposed not onto landfill sites but rather collected and converted into fuel. It was reported that only during the period 23 November to 18 December 2020 almost 70 tonnes of such waste has been collected from the sanitary network in the region and processed at the Cerceda Environmental Complex, a waste-to-energy plant located in A Coruña.
This was first tried out during the first pandemic wave in the spring
The Galician Health Service has delegated this task to Sogama – the public environmental organization of the autonomous community. This was first done back in April and May and some 65 tonnes were collected and converted to fuel during that period.
The authorities opted for this path rather than pose unnecessary risk by disposing even low-risk contaminated materials in the landfill sites of smaller communities, which do not have efficient energy conversion plants.
The material is collected, crushed and compacted in order to prepare it for the process of transforming it into refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Most of the materials, except for glass and metal, are combustible and can be converted through specialized technique into fuel, which can then serve a useful purpose and thus derive a second life out of waste.
The COVID waste was treated in a special section separate from the rest of the plant and there were also specialized personnel working with that refuse. The thermoelectrical plant was heated to temperatures of more than 850 degrees Celsius to ensure the elimination of harmful pathogens.