LAHORE   -   The business of recycling hospital waste into toys and crockery is thriving due to ill-coordinated efforts of the district administration, Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and Environment Protection Department (EPD) to check this environmental hazard.

The issue came into knowledge of the district administration two months ago, but the authorities have yet to make any coordinated effort or develop a coherent policy to shut down these illegal recycling plants.

Despite the raids, approximately 80 small and large-scale units are recycling medical waste in the city.

Environment Protection Department officials say the department has just five environment inspectors for the city of 120 million people that has hundreds of small and big recycling plants.

An official of the EPD said, “These factories have grown like mushrooms in the city and five inspectors cannot do the job effectively. Coordinated action is required on part of the health department, LWMC, district administration, local government and the EPD to check this environmental hazard.”

“During a recent campaign, 40 trucks of medical waste were lifted from various points in the city. We found waste of Rahim Yar Khan, Multan and Sukkur hospitals in Lahore,” the EPD official said.

On the other hand, LWMC spokesperson says the company is responsible for lifting only 2.5 ton waste collected from four hospitals on a daily basis. This waste is incinerated at two waste plants at Children’s Hospital. “Ashes of this waste are disposed off as per the Hospital Waste Information Management System. There is no chance of waste slipping at any step of the disposal,” he said. He said that LWMC has outsourced incineration of 2.5 ton medical waste daily to a private contractor.

All other hospitals are sending their medical waste to private contractors and there has been no check and balance on how this waste will be used.

According to an estimate, 25 percent of the hospital waste is going to a recycling plant owned by a mafia and is being recycled into toys.

The district administration confiscated around 3.5 tons of medical waste in 25,000 bags that was confiscated during raids on four factories. These factories were sealed for making toys and other items for children using hospital waste.

These raids were carried out in Khalid Park of Khokhar Town, Malipura and Shafiqabad areas. The owner on one such unit was making toys, feeders, nipples and crockery from the hospital waste.

The owner of the unit got pre-arrest bail from the court, but his unit is sealed till date. The district government spokesperson said five major raids were conducted on such units in 40 days.

The administration raided 343 places in Lahore division for recycling hospital waste, lodged 44 FIRs and seized tons of hospital waste, according to the data released by Commissioner’s Office.

Lahore Commissioner Anwar Khan Lodhi has issued instructions to the district administration to carry out operation against these illegal recycling plants on a daily basis.

According to media reports, some of the waste of Jinnah Hospital was being thrown out from hospital’s windows in the nearby ground.

Explaining the hazards of using medical waste, Dr Hamza said, “There are serious consequences of using medical waste for making toys and crockery. “At least 10 to 25 percent of medical waste is hazardous and entails health risks,” he says.

Assistant Commissioner (City) Fazal e Rabbi Cheema said the district administration was eliminating these heinous practices in the city and there would be no compromise on it.