There is no such thing as away; things we throw away go somewhere and end up as some things useful or harmful. According to a report in this newspaper, around 100 tonnes of hospital waste in Punjab are illegally supplied daily to plastic recycling factories in the province. According to a provincial health department official, things have been made easy because of the unavailability of incinerators at government hospitals. The hazardous hospital waste is recycled into pots, toys, decoration pieces and other items. The unsterilised hazardous waste is supplied to home-based and other small recycling factories in Lahore and other parts of the province, though there are isolated designated spots in cities and towns where the dangerous hospital waste is to be dumped.
It is unclear whether the medical waste goes directly to traders from the hospital or they are lifted from the dumping sites. While there are no laws to regulate the disposal of the dangerous waste material but only some SOPs, these too are often ignored. Medical experts are of the view that the haphazard disposal of hazardous hospital waste and their recycling into pots and other items are contributing to the spread of hepatitis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other dangerous diseases. The hospital waste resulting from the contagious coronavirus disease is adding to the problem.
The theft of hazardous hospital waste is rampant at hospitals in Lahore — something that is not possible without the involvement of hospital administrations. However, a Punjab health department spokesperson has refuted the claim. On the other hand, what factory owners say lends credence to the allegations of hospital waste theft. They say hospital waste is turned into granules in factories, and from the plastic granules are manufactured toys, pots and other household items. All such recycled items are exposing people to deadly diseases, including the newly-emerged Covid-19. Allowing recycling of hospital waste is a dangerous idea.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2020.
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