The What, Who & Why of Healthcare Waste
The What, Who & Why of Healthcare Waste
Waste and the disposal of it is one of the biggest environmental issues in the World.
In this article we are taking a closer look at Healthcare Waste – also known as Clinical or Medical Waste.
This is NOT just about hospitals and Doctors – it covers a whole range of daily activities serviced by our Small Businesses including Aesthetic studios, Tattoo Studios, Alternative medicine practices, Acupuncturists and a whole lot more!
What… is it?
Healthcare or medical waste comes in all shapes & sizes. Across the world approximately 80% of it is similar to that of household waste, with the other 20% being classed as “hazardous waste”.
The definition of Healthcare Waste (or medical/clinical) is defined by the Controlled Waste Regulations Act 2012 (*1) as:
“any waste which consists wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or other body fluids, excretions, drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs or dressings, syringes, needles or other sharp instruments, being waste which unless rendered safe may prove hazardous to any person coming into contact with it; and
other waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or similar practice, investigation, treatment, care, teaching or research, or the collection of blood for transfusion, being waste which may cause infection to any person coming into contact with it.”
This is not just a concern in the UK –
In a lot of low-income, developing countries waste segregation is poor.
Infrastructure for safe collection, handling and treatment or disposal is minimal at best and there is low awareness of the risks to patients, healthcare workers and the general public.
To try and address this the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued guidelines and a code of practice.
Along with substantial funding from the UNEP (3*) and other agencies work is taking place with local communities to build sustainable processes. This aims to address the environmental, social , economic complex issues stemming from inadequate / non-existent healthcare waste disposal.
The WHO estimates average hazardous healthcare waste generated per hospital bed is around 0.2 kg in most low-income countries and 0.5 kg in high-income countries. (*2).
So for just England (and just NHS) that’s over 70,000kg – or 6 Double decker buses or 1000 people at 11 stone in weight – every year!
This doesn’t include our growing commercial sector and non-residential healthcare providers such as dentists, clinicians , Doctors practices, aesthetics salons….. and that’s just the 20% classed as “hazardous”
The other 80% might not be hazardous – it is classed as “offensive” when it has been in contact with bodily fluids that are not toxic or infectious – such as incontinence pads, sanitary towels & tampons, swabs and bed rolls etc.
All of this added together and then factored in for the entire UK adds up to a phenomenal amount of Waste!
As a “first world” developed country the UK not only has the infrastructure to collect, handle and treat healthcare and medical waste it has strict legislation to enforce it too.
Who…is responsible for it?
As a “producer” of this waste the responsibility of ensuring its safe handling and eventual disposal sits with YOU.
That includes small and home businesses practicing in any healthcare or medicinal / human or animal capacity – so covers Acupuncturists, Beauticians, Chiropractors, Chiropodists, Tattoo artists, Vets ,
basically any business using and producing waste from sharps, materials contaminated with bodily fluids, PPE, body parts, chemicals and medicines, medical devices and radioactive materials.
Mixing waste is prohibited in England and Wales under Duty of Care and the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
As a producer of clinical waste you are legally required to classify and describe the waste (4*).
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a “Duty of Care” on any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste, to take all such measures applicable to him in that capacity as are reasonable in the circumstances.
Our Government conforms to the WHO guidelines and works closely with the UNEP to protect our citizens and the environment – they create the legislation that is then passed to Local Authorities to enforce, monitor and report on.
The reason the accountability sits with the producer is to provide a full audit trail.
This is facilitated by documentation describing the waste and other relevant details known as the
Duty of Care Waste Transfer Notes & Hazardous/Special Waste Consignment Notes
This also has the objectives of:
- preventing any other persons committing the offences of depositing, disposing of or recovering controlled waste without an environmental permit or waste management licence.
- Safely containing the waste and preventing escape spills
- Ensuring the waste transfer only goes to authorised establishments for final regulated disposal.
Not only does this help to keep us all safe it has a massive impact on protecting both our home / local environment and that of our global planet too.
It really is “acting local and thinking Global”
Take a look at the next article in the series the “How & Where of Healthcare Waste” explaining How healthcare waste is disposed of in the UK and Where you need to put each type of waste (colour coded receptacles)
References & helpful tips!
This article was produced for Green Circle Direct by Sophie Green and uses information from the sources below.
To ensure YOUR business is complying with the legislation and to help save you £’s whilst helping to save the planet click the button below for an instant, no obligation quote for a fully compliant, safe and ethical service.
References and sources
*1 Controlled Waste Regulations Act 2012: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/811/contents/made
*3 UNEP United Nations Environmental Programme https://www.unep.org/