A Pattaya complex operating as a “hospital” was caught disguising infectious waste as ordinary waste in an apparent attempt to avoid paying 16 times as much for disposal.
The complex was one of 14 closed hotels that reopened to store mildly ill or asymptomatic coronavirus patients, collecting a fee from the government for each bed filled. It previously served as a state quarantine center for Thais returning from abroad until the government ended the program in July.
As such, said Pattaya Deputy Mayor Manote Nongyai, the hotel management was fully aware of the requirements for the disposal of waste created by its “guests”. Everything they touch should be placed in red infectious waste bags and disposed of separately from household waste.
Until July 12, the government was paying to get rid of this infectious waste. But when that subsidy ended, the bill went to the hospitals. And the bill was important.
Pattaya’s garbage hauler, Eastern Green World Co., charges 1.5 baht per kilogram for normal garbage. Infectious waste, however, costs 24 baht per kilogram.
So when Eastern Green garbage collectors noticed that the amount of regular waste had increased dramatically – and the amount of infectious waste had dramatically decreased – the alarm bells rang. The trash cans recently opened trash bags wrapped in black bags to find red bags inside.
Eastern Green World has reported that three of its garbage collectors were infected with Covid-19, although it is not known exactly how they contracted it.
The purchasing manager of the hotels, Nattawan Nontaparaya, told Manote and Pattaya Environmental Chief Sutee Nongthubhee that she had no idea how the red bags ended up inside the shops. black bags and denied any intentional wrongdoing.
Manote fined the hotel and gave them a warning. If they are caught again mixing waste inappropriately, management could be jailed for up to six months and fined up to 50,000 baht.
The deputy mayor did not bluntly accuse the hotel of deliberately hiding its infectious waste in household garbage to avoid higher fees, saying it was possible the state’s former quarantine center believed the rules of “hospitals” differ.
But the hotel had also installed signs in every room telling patients to sort their waste into separate bins, when in fact all patient waste was considered infectious waste.
Manote had all panels removed from patient rooms and told the hotel to change their trash cans so that all infectious waste containers were on wheels.