HONG KONG - Police in central China's Hunan province have discovered used medical supplies being "recycled" at a workshop, and tracked down a network of dealers across the country, in the latest case of black-hearted goods being sold on the market.
Over 140 tonnes of used plastic medical supplies, including syringes and blood bags, were illegally sold off through an underground network of recyclers, Chinese state media reported over the weekend.
The case came to light with the jailing of a dozen people found guilty of polluting the environment in Hunan province last week, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday. (June 12).
Police said they were concerned that more of the dangerous waste materials might have been re-introduced into the manufacturing chain and reprocessed into plastic products for the food, medical and building renovation industries, the Post cited Outlook magazine as saying.
In April 2016, officials from an environmental protection bureau in Hunan, acting on a tip off, discovered several men "recycling" some 50 tonnes of used medical supplies in a backyard workshop in Gupei township, reported Outlook, which is published by China's official Xinhua news agency.
The men, including a dealer and a few workers, said they bought the waste from a rubbish dump for 2,000 yuan (S$407) a tonne. The waste material was then sold to another dealer for 5,000 yuan a tonne.
Bureau official Xu Shuli was cited as saying: "The scene was dreadful to the eye and disturbing to the mind."
Liquid residue from IV bags was seen leaking onto the ground, and syringes were found with dried blood, Outlook reported, adding that there was a stench in the air.
Hunan police spent six months investigating the case, and detained dozens of suspects in the web of dealers and suppliers in provinces including Hubei, Guangdong, Hebei and Jiangsu. More are expected to be arrested.
In one case, a dealer in Langfang, in northern Hebei province, sold the illegally processed waste for use in manufacturing pipes, and supplies for food and medical industries.
Most of the waste had come from public medical facilities, and investigators said several hospital property management companies have also been implicated in the case, the Post reported.
"County-level hospitals do not pay support staff and cleaners enough, so they let them sell the waste," one hospital employee said, adding that many of such hospitals try to save the cost of engaging professional recycling companies to destroy used medical supplies.