LAHORE: The business of recycling of hazardous hospital waste is in full swing in the provincial capital under the nose of authorities, Pakistan Today has observed.
The departments concerned had claimed time and again of starting various campaigns to curb this fatal business, while also claiming that their efforts have been fruitful. But the reality is different as the authorities remained unsuccessful to stop this illegal business.
Experts had highlighted this very issue time and again that the improper destroying of hospital waste could pose a serious threat to citizens’ health as this may cause fatal diseases like HIV/Aids, skin infections, asthma and others.
Sources in the Health Department told Pakistan Today that the business of illegal recycling continued due to lack of implementation of Hospital Waste Rules 2005. They said that this failure in implementation had provided an opportunity to those involved in this business.
“In 2010, Punjab government had strictly banned the hospitals to sell the waste to any irrelevant person, while also directing to send this straight to incinerators installed in different hospitals in the province,” they said, and added that the amended Hospital Waste Management Rules 2014 restrict the medical superintendents of the hospitals to keep a check and balance on the hazardous waste.
According to official data available with Pakistan Today, currently, 17,537 kilograms of hospital waste is being generated daily from the hospitals located in the provincial capital. Among this waste, at least 10,785 kilograms of waste is generated in 17 teaching hospitals, 340 kilograms in basic health units and 6,412 kilograms in private hospitals and healthcare units located in Lahore.
However, sources said that currently, 54 incinerators are present in different hospitals of Punjab out of which 47 are functional. They revealed that in a big city like Lahore, only one incinerator located in Children Hospital was currently functional to incinerate just 2,000 kilograms of waste per day.
Moreover, they said that before incineration, all the hospital waste must be segregated through autoclave but most of the hospitals are lacking this facility.
According to the information gathered by Pakistan Today, at least 40 recycling units are operating in different areas of Lahore. Majority of these units are located in North Lahore, Shahdara and Green Town while a number of units are operating near Bund Road.
An employee working at such a recycling unit said that some private parties supply this hospital waste which was not collected from just Lahore but from across the province. He said that they receive thousands of kilograms of waste daily which is supplied covered in sacks to recycling unit through trucks.
“We manufacture granules after recycling the hospital waste which is further used in the manufacturing of plastic furniture, plastic utensils, plastic bottles, plastic toys and even plastic straws,” he said while adding that this hospital waste comprises of urine bags, blood bags, syringes and glucose bottles etc.
The employee also revealed that often, they find body parts among hospital waste.
Talking to Pakistan Today, an official in health department admitted that due to delay in implementation of the relevant laws, the illegal business of recycling is continuing. While seeking anonymity, he revealed that only 10 to 15 per cent hospital waste was incinerated while the rest went to illegal plastic recycle units.
He further revealed that in Lahore, only one private company was collecting waste from hospitals for which it cost a huge amount. “Due to the costly provision of collecting waste by this company, many private hospitals avoid to hand over their waste,” he added.
The official, however, said that the plan of action regarding proper recycling of hospital waste has been prepared by Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and it would be functional very soon.