2020 marked the beginning of a Decade of Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the global context for development has fundamentally changed. The world faces the greatest socio-economic shock in a generation, coming at a time of acute inequality, ecological fragility, and growing distrust within and amongst societies.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects caused increasing environmental problem consequences related to the extra generation of medical waste and single-use plastics, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and packaging plastics, the pandemic also offers an opportunity to develop recovery plans that will reverse current trends and shift our patterns of life towards a more sustainable course. A successful transition will mean improvements in resource efficiency, consideration of the entire life cycle of economic activities, and active engagement in multilateral environmental agreements.

The management of chemicals and wastes is a significant part of the UNDP’s efforts to accomplish sustainable, comprehensive and resilient human development towards the SDGs. The UNDP helps countries to support and improve the holistic management of chemicals and waste at national, regional and global levels by helping countries access financial and technical resources, and provides technical assistance and implementation guidance. The UNDP tackles unsustainable consumption and production patterns, including poor design and material choices, which lead to resource depletion, waste generation and pollution. As the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to overwhelm health services and harm vulnerable economies, the world will be drowning in medical waste and the repercussions of this glut will have a profound impact on sustainable medical waste management practices for years to come.

Within this scope, UNDP Turkey and the Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD) developed a survey with an aim to assess the needs and gaps of the medical waste ecosystem, and to identify the significant challenges in the medical waste ecosystem during COVID-19. The survey was conducted to responsible parties in the ecosystem, particularly in health care facilities and medical waste sterilization companies. The detailed findings were followed by a full methodology to reveal the challenges as per the responses to the survey of company focal points.

"COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Medical Waste Ecosystem in Turkey During COVID-19" provides a background of medical waste ecosystem during COVID-19 at a global scale as well as providing a snapshot of Turkey in light of the responses to the survey. In light of the findings, Turkey has an established Legislation for the control and management of medical waste. Medical waste management in Turkey subjects to regulation Medical Waste Control Legislation (29959), in which the regulations and implementation of the legislation is under the authority of Urban and Environment Ministry. The medical waste and management procedure is clearly defined under the regulation as well as the responsible parties such as authorities (ministry, local authorities, municipalities, health care institutions, private sector). During the COVID-19 outbreak, the responsible parties continue to follow the current regulations. The ecosystem has sufficient installed capacity and technology to manage medical waste. Although the medical waste sterilization companies faced several challenges during the peak period; they managed to repurpose and restructure their strategies, and could immediately responded to the increasing demand. The bottlenecks, risks and measures undertaken to overcome these challenges were presented in the Report.

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