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clinical 2020.1

Covid-19 waste management and how and why hazardous waste should be disposed of responsibly

Covid-19 has brought with it an abundance of challenges for businesses and many have been forced to adapt. Recently, we’ve experienced increased demand for our hazardous waste disposal service, particularly from organisations that may not have dealt with hazardous waste pre-pandemic.

Many schools, conference centres and football clubs are now being transformed into Covid-19 vaccination centres and as a result, will now have to ensure their waste management recycling service can dispose of clinical and hazardous waste too. Recently, DCW has been providing schools, colleges and health centres with clinical waste collection services associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, but clinical waste is just one category under the hazardous waste umbrella. If your business produces hazardous waste, it’s important to know what classifications the waste falls under and how to dispose of it properly.

What is hazardous waste?

Put simply, hazardous waste is defined as waste that poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment. Common examples of hazardous waste include cleaning products, vehicle fluids, electronic equipment (also known as WEEE), paints, solvents, asbestos and clinical waste. It’s important to note that clinical waste is a waste classification in its own right and follows its own set of regulations, but it is a type of hazardous waste. All businesses have a ‘duty of care’ to dispose of waste correctly, safely and responsibly and are also responsible for preventing the production of it, reusing or recycling it. Hazardous waste disposal should be considered as a final resort for businesses where it is impossible to prevent the production of hazardous waste or reuse it (source: Gov.UK).

How do I dispose of hazardous waste responsibly?

Firstly, you need to identify if the waste your business is producing is classed as hazardous. Ask yourself would it cause harm to humans? Could it seriously damage the environment? In most cases, you can check the waste code or codes associated with your waste to see if it is hazardous, this is usually available in the manufacturers’ product safety data sheets. Look out for the orange and black data symbols or red and white pictograms which indicate that substances are hazardous. Bear in mind that some products such as cosmetics and medicines may not be labelled with these symbols so this is when you should refer to the product’s safety data sheet. Some items may have more than one classification depending on the possible mix of substances. If this is the case, you must work out exactly what is in the waste and how much of it is hazardous (source: Gov.UK). It’s time consuming and can be tricky, but it is absolutely essential that you declare your waste under the correct classification codes. Before collection, you will be required to describe the type of waste that needs disposing of to your waste management provider and complete the relevant paperwork before it is taken off the premises, so you need to be in the know. If you are unsure, please do contact the specialist team at DCW who can advise.

How should I safely store my hazardous waste?

It is vital that hazardous waste is stored in a secure, safe environment to minimise the risk to public health and the environment. Remember, it is illegal to mix hazardous waste with other hazardous waste types or general waste. Each waste classification must be stored separately however, where a production process naturally results in a mixed waste, it is not classed as mixing though you must still clarify and describe each waste in the mix (source: Gov.UK).

When it comes to the storing of waste, you must think about the type of containers you use. Hazardous waste must be stored in secure containers with tight lids which won’t be prone to leakage and labelled clearly with the substance that they contain. It is also a good idea to protect these containers with a waterproof cover.

Do you need a special licence or permissions to store hazardous waste you might ask? If you’re storing waste for up to 12 months, then no. Storing hazardous waste for longer than 12 months requires a waste management license or a pollution prevention and control permit. The maximum amount of hazardous waste you can store on site is up to 23,000 litres of liquid waste, 80 m³ of any other type of waste stored in a secured container or 50 m³ stored in a secure place (source: NetRegs). If you have questions regarding safe storage of hazardous waste, please speak to the experts at DCW.

What is the worst that could happen if I don’t dispose of my hazardous waste responsibly?

If you are a business owner, you have a duty of care to ensure that all waste generated by your business is kept to a minimum and disposed of safely and responsibly. Disregard the duty of care laws and not only could you be responsible for causing severe damage to the environment, you could also be faced with hefty fines or even a prison sentence. From 2019 to 2020, the Environment Agency made 59 successful waste crime prosecutions which resulted in five prison sentences, 11 suspended sentences and total fines of more than £530,000 (source: Lets Recycle).

Remember, the waste is your responsibility right up until it is disposed of, so it is important that you choose a waste management company that has the correct licences in place to handle your waste.

How can DCW help?

Our team of highly trained, licenced hazardous waste management experts can help you dispose of your hazardous waste and ensure that you meet all the required legislation. We offer a range of hazardous and clinical waste collection and disposal solutions, each of which can be tailored to meet your specific needs. We can provide you with secure containers and can collect your waste at an affordable rate. By choosing DCW as your hazardous waste collection provider, it’s the easiest way to ensure you meet the latest UK hazardous waste disposal regulations.

If you’d like to know more about how we manage and dispose of hazardous and clinical waste, click here or call 01392 690193 or email

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