Britain’s government is preparing to incinerate a considerable portion of the £8.7 billion ($11.4 billion) of personal protective equipment (PPE) bought by the Department of Health and Social Care during the coronavirus pandemic that was found to be unsuitable for use, and in some cases not even meeting basic medical standards.
The government announced during a parliamentary committee hearing on Monday their plan to burn 15,000 pallets of the amassed useless items per month as fuel to generate electricity – there is no indication however that this will meaningfully positively affect Britain’s energy crisis, nor recover the wasted expenditure. The hoard of defective PPE includes visors, gloves and gowns.
There are currently 5.5 billion pieces of unusable equipment currently being stored by the government, and alongside plans to incinerate the stores, there are also plans to recycle and repurpose some of the stock, such as turning items into bin bags as well as disposable bed sheets and curtains for Britain’s socialised National Health Service, The Independent reports.
It has also been revealed that some of the items are not technically defective but were made with slave labour, so will not be used. These slavery-made items include 1.5 billion pairs of gloves.
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Additionally, £750 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on items that were not used before their expiry date.
The revelation that £8.7 billion was wasted is likely to further undermine the Conservative government’s selling point as a competent and trustworthy steward of public finances, especially as Britons currently face a cost of living crisis. The government had previously promised there were “robust processes” in place to ensure that taxpayer money was spent properly.
The inglorious disposal of billions of pounds of unused PPE may also add to public concern about the quality of government procurement given purchases through the contested government “fast-track” schemes which, it is feared, gave rise to abuses.
Jonathan Marron, the Director-General for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities at the Department of Health and Social Care, told MPs on Monday that “we’re currently appointing to what are called lead waste partners, commercial firms who do this as their business who will help us recycle [the PPE]”, but the government “will also need to use more traditional waste disposal methods, largely using burning it [the useless equipment] to generate heat and energy”.
“We think we move up to 15,000 pallets a month when we get these contracts in place, so a really significant way of seeing recycling increase and indeed using some of the product to drive power generation”, Marron continued.
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