What is clinical waste?
Clinical Waste is waste that consists of wholly or partly from healthcare activities that can be hazardous to anyone who comes into contact with it and may contain:
• human or animal tissue
• blood or other body fluids
• drugs or other pharmaceutical products
• used swabs or dressings
• used syringes, needles or other sharp instruments.
Clinical waste must be packaged, handled and collected under controlled conditions and should not be disposed of with other wastes. Legally enforced regulations cover every step in the clinical waste management process.
Healthcare Clinical waste includes waste that could pose a risk of infection and may be produced by:
• medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or similar practices
• investigation, treatment, care, teaching or research
• collecting blood for transfusion.
Clinical waste should be separated from non-clinical waste streams, as a producer of clinical waste you should assess each type of material for hazards before you segregate it, and dispose of it correctly by using a licenced waste carrier.
What is offensive/hygiene waste?
Offensive/hygiene waste (previously known as ‘sanpro’ or human hygiene waste) is not ‘clinical waste’, ‘hazardous’ or ‘special waste’ and not dangerous goods under transport legislation if it:
• is considered non-infectious;
• does not require specialist treatment or disposal.
And does not contain;
• body fluids, secretions or excretions, and falls within EWC codes
18 01 04, 18 02 03 or 20 01 99
Offensive/hygiene wastes are the product of a population which is not known to be infectious. The waste can also be offensive in appearance and produce offensive malodour. When handled, there is a residual health risk, which should be assessed, and appropriate precautions should be implemented.
Offensive/hygiene waste includes;
• human and animal waste (faeces);
• incontinence pads;
• catheter and stoma bags;
• sanitary waste;
• nasal secretions;
• vomit and soiled human bedding from a non-infectious source;
• medical/veterinary items of disposable equipment such as gowns etc.
• plasters (minor first aid or self-care) generated by personal use;
• animal hygiene waste (e.g. animal bedding);
• waste from non-healthcare activities, e.g. waste from body piercing or application of tattoos (excluding sharps).
• Municipal waste from domestic first aid and self-care – of a type that does not involve the need for a healthcare practitioner.
What is infectious waste?
Infectious Waste and by-products cover a diverse range of materials, as the following list illustrates:
• infectious waste: waste contaminated with blood and other bodily fluids (e.g. from discarded diagnostic samples), cultures and stocks of infectious agents from laboratory work (e.g. waste from autopsies and infected animals from laboratories), or waste from patients in isolation wards and equipment (e.g. swabs, bandages and disposable medical devices);
• pathological waste: human tissues, organs or fluids, body parts and contaminated animal carcasses;
• sharps: syringes, needles, disposable scalpels and blades, etc.;
• chemicals: for example, solvents used for laboratory preparations, disinfectants, and heavy metals contained in medical devices (e.g. mercury in broken thermometers) and batteries;
• pharmaceuticals: expired, unused and contaminated drugs and vaccines;
• genotoxic waste: highly hazardous, mutagenic, teratogenic1 or carcinogenic, such as cytotoxic drugs used in cancer treatment and their metabolites;
• radioactive waste: such as products contaminated by radionuclides including radioactive diagnostic material or radio therapeutic materials.
Health-care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms which can infect hospital/nursing home patients, health workers, waste carriers and handlers and the general public. Other potential infectious risks may include the spread of drug-resistant microorganisms from health facilities into the environment. Health risks associated with waste and by-products also include:
• radiation burns;
• sharps-inflicted injuries;
• poisoning and pollution through the release of pharmaceutical products, in particular, antibiotics and cytotoxic drugs.
• poisoning and pollution through waste water; and by toxic elements or compounds such as mercury or dioxins that are released during incineration.
What is Hazardous waste?
Waste is generally considered hazardous if it (or the material or substances it contains) are harmful to humans or the environment. Examples of hazardous waste include:
• healthcare waste for example (cytotic waste)
• some dental waste
• some pharmaceutical waste on the “NICE” register
• hazardous waste containers
• chemicals, e.g. brake fluid or print toner
• oils (except edible ones), eg car oil
• equipment containing ozone depleting substances, eg fridges
As a producer of waste you must make sure hazardous waste produced or handled by your business in England causes no harm or damage. (Visit this link for more information.)
As a producer of Hazardous Waste you also have responsibilities known as your ‘duty of care’. You must also meet extra requirements depending on whether you are a:
• producer or holder (you produce or store waste)
• carrier (you collect and transport waste)
• consignee (you receive waste, eg for recycling or disposal)
Check legal requirements and what you need to do in
• Northern Ireland, (https://www.doeni.gov.uk/)
• Scotland (http://www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/waste/special-waste/)
• Wales (http://naturalresources.wales/waste/hazardous-waste-returns/?lang=en)
What are the Risks and Responsibilities for Hazardous Waste?
Waste is considered “hazardous” under environmental legislation when it contains substances, or has properties, that might make it harmful to human health or the environment. Such waste can be introduced to the environment through release into the air, water or land. As well as having direct and long-term impacts on wildlife and fauna, hazardous waste can affect humans, for example by contaminating groundwater supplies or by entering the food chain.
With an estimated 4.3 million tonnes of hazardous waste being produced annually in the UK, the producers of such waste have a “duty of care” to:
• prevent the illegal deposit, disposal or treatment of any waste produced
• prevent waste from escaping (e.g. leaking, blowing away, being stolen)
• ensure that waste is only transferred to authorised persons
• ensure that any waste transferred is accompanied by a written consignment note.
More specifically for hazardous waste, unless an organisation produces or holds less than 500 kilograms of such waste in any 12-month period, it is required to register the premises with the appropriate agency, since April 2016 this only applies to Scotland, Wales & N Ireland, as premises codes are no longer required for England. Organisations are also required to classify the waste appropriately and then separate and store the hazardous waste away from non-hazardous waste.
As well as being harmful to humans through environmental routes, hazardous waste can be harmful to employees directly handling and transporting it.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), an employer is required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by work activities which should “take into account those substances which are…. produced at the end of any process, e.g. wastes, residues, scrap etc.” In addition, COSHH requires:
• measures to be taken in respect of the safe handling and transport of waste substances
• means for instituting the safe collection, storage and disposal of contaminated waste
• the use of secure and identifiable containers.
Call the experts
As a waste producer do you know if you are compliant? Do you know how effective or if your waste disposal service represents value for money? Not sure? then talk to Principal Hygiene we can help you with advice and support ensuring you have the right services in place that delivers value for money, is compliant and meets your waste disposal needs.
Get a Clinical quote today or call us to discuss further, If you are unsure about the type of container you should be using or you have a mixed waste stream call us, we are on hand to provide advice and support.
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