Angry residents lock up waste site in south-west China

A medical waste disposal centre in south-west China has been locked up by residents angry at its poor management

Residents in Guilin, a city in south-west China, locked the gate of a medical waste disposal centre for more than five weeks in protest at its poor management.

A representative of the residents, Qin Jianzhao, told Nanguo Morning News that the disposal centre had failed to follow the provincial medical waste management regulations, which require all medical waste to be processed within one day of collection. Hazardous medical waste had been stored in open air for weeks on ends.

The disposal centre, founded in 2003, collects six tonnes of medical waste from 24 hospitals and more than 300 clinics in Guilin. It also received 20 million yuan of investment from the municipal authority in 2011. The lock-up saw more than 100 tonnes of medical waste transported and processed in the nearby provincial capital Nanning.

A local environmental official said in an interview with local media that the disposal centre had not passed the acceptance check of environmental protection, while the centre’s manager admitted they had yet to apply for a license for hazardous waste management from the local authority.

Residents and the disposal centre eventually struck a deal after long negotiation, allowing the centre to return to normal operation last week, after being locked up for 38 days.

It is not the first time that the poor management of medical waste in Guilin has caused public outrage. The same disposal centre was found dumping unprocessed medical waste into domestic waste landfill last year. In 2003, China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua reported that medical waste had been illegally sold to Guangdong and Zhejiang for reuse.

Improper medical waste management also haunts authorities elsewhere. Earlier this year, Liao Xinbo, the deputy head of Guangdong’s health department, said the existence of a systematic loophole in the medical waste management was “undoubted”. Liao’s comment came after a major expose which revealed that medical waste had been used as the materials for manufacturing toys and food containers in Puning.

China generates more than 650,000 tonnes of medical waste each year, while statistics from the environmental protection ministry shows that as of 2010, China’s national medical waste disposing capability amounts to only 590,000 tonnes.