A Pattaya resort operating as a “hospitel” was caught disguising infectious waste as ordinary garbage in an apparent attempt to avoid paying 16 times more for disposal.
The resort was one of 14 closed hotels that reopened to warehouse mildly ill or asymptomatic coronavirus patients, collecting a fee from the government for each bed filled. It previously had served as a state quarantine center for Thais returning from overseas until the government ended that program in July.
As such, said Pattaya Deputy Mayor Manote Nongyai, hotel management was fully aware of the requirements for disposing of garbage created by its “guests.” Everything they touch must go into red infectious-waste bags and be disposed of separately from regular garbage.
Until July 12, the government paid to get rid of such infectious waste. But when that subsidy ended, the bill went to hospitels. And the bill was large.
Pattaya’s garbage hauler, Eastern Green World Co., charges 1.5 baht per kilogram for normal trash. Infectious waste, however, costs 24 baht a kilogram.
So when Eastern Green garbage men noticed the amount of regular trash had increased radically – and the quantity of infectious waste decreased radically – alarm bells went off. The trashmen recently cut open garbage bags packed in black bags only to discover red sacks inside.
Eastern Green World reported that three of its trash collectors have been infected with Covid-19, although it’s unknown exactly how they contracted it.
Hotel procurement manager Nattawan Nontaparaya told Manote and Pattaya environmental chief Sutee Nongthubhee that she had no idea how the red bags ended up inside the black bags and denied any intentional wrongdoing.
Manote fined the hotel and gave them a warning. If they are caught improperly mixing waste again, management could be imprisoned for up to six months and fined up to 50,000 baht.
The deputy mayor did not outright accuse the hotel of purposefully hiding its infectious waste in regular trash to avoid higher fees, saying it was possible the former state quarantine center thought the rules for “hospitels” differed.
But the hotel had also put signs in each room telling patients to sort their trash into separate bins, when, in fact, all trash from patients was considered infectious waste.
Manote had all signs removed from patient rooms and told the hotel to change its trash bins so that all infectious waste containers were on wheels.