In our increasingly environmentally-conscious society, sorting our waste into different categories has become a daily task. Whilst sorting our milk tops from our egg boxes is an important aspect of doing our bit for the planet, when it comes to hazardous waste, it is absolutely essential to handle and manage it responsibly. Hazardous waste refers to any substance that might be harmful to the environment, wildlife or human health- clinical waste covers a large subsection of this type of waste.
If you’re opening a business that will potentially produce clinical waste, you’ll need to make yourself aware of your responsibilities. There are strict regulations about clinical waste and complying properly is crucial- it must be disposed of in designated bins otherwise it could pose health and environmental risks. Below, we explore a few key considerations, including what classifies as clinical waste, what types of businesses may require clinical waste management and how clinical colour-coding works. Finally, as waste disposal specialists, we offer a few handy tips to help you manage your clinical and sanitary waste properly.
Many people often associate clinical waste just with needles and other sharp instruments, however, they are mistaken. There are many other substances and items that constitute as clinical waste and it’s essential to understand what these are to make sure your business is managing its waste responsibly. Clinical waste includes:
● Human or animal tissue
● Blood or other bodily fluids
● Drugs or other pharmaceutical products
● Swabs, dressings and disposable protective clothing e.g. surgical gloves
● Syringes, needles or other sharp instruments
Whilst you may think that clinical waste management is a service that only medical organisations use, there are actually plenty of different businesses that require proper clinical waste disposal- including businesses that we see up and down high streets across the UK. Below, we detail various different businesses that produce clinical waste and the types of items that they use:
● Doctors surgeries and dental practices: The main type of business that requires clinical waste solutions is, of course, those that produce medical waste. This could include everything from human tissue and bodily fluids to gum moulds and syringes.
● Tattoo and piercing parlours: Tattooists use needles on a daily basis while piercing specialists now use disposable needles instead of piercing guns- both of which must be thrown away responsibly. By law, all tattooists and piercers must wear surgical gloves and use fresh swabs and dressings, which must also be disposed of in a clinical waste bin.
● Beauty salons: Beauty salons now host a whole range of services, from manicures and pedicures to minor plastic surgeries. When a beauty specialist carries out botox or a facial filler procedure, they are required to use specialist needles and medical dressings which must then be placed into a clinical waste bin.
● Alternative therapies: Alongside standard medical practices that use needles for vaccinations and other injections, some alternative practices also use needles as part of their treatment. For example, an acupuncture or chiropody clinic.
● Nursing homes and hospices: Care homes often use items such as bedpans and dressing, and this type of waste (i.e. sanitary waste) must be carefully controlled at care homes. This can be done through clinical waste management. Patients may also receive regular medical treatments which require the use of needles, so again having a clinical waste bin is good practice.
● Veterinary surgery: Similar to a doctors surgery, vets use a variety of instruments to treat animal patients which must be disposed of as clinical waste.
● Laboratory or scientific research premises: Organisations that carry out scientific testing – whether for a medical or alternative purpose – produce various types of hazardous waste like laboratory specimens and tested drugs that must be disposed of properly.
Whilst most clinical waste is produced in a commercial context, it’s important that you are aware of the regulations if you use any clinical waste items at home. If you have a medical condition that requires the use of needles, you should speak to your GP about properly disposing of your sharps. You should be provided with a clinical waste bin on prescription- to find out more, visit the NHS website.
If you are setting up a business that falls under any of the categories we’ve described, it is essential that you find a reliable clinical waste disposal company to support your waste management services. At Devon Contract Waste, we offer complete, specialist clinical and sanitary waste solutions for whatever type of business you have. We work with a huge range of companies, from hospitals and local authorities to tattoo parlours and acupuncture clinics, supplying our customers with all of the correct equipment and documentation for safe and responsible disposal of clinical waste.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are strict regulations associated with clinical waste management. A comprehensive colour-coding system is in place here in the UK in order to make complying to the guidelines simpler. The colour-code system is particularly useful for healthcare businesses, however, it still applies to any company that discards of the below items or substances. You should colour-code and segregate your waste as follows:
● Yellow: Infectious waste to be sent for immediate incineration- not for treatment. For example, chemically contained samples, diagnostic kits or laboratory specimens.
● Blue: Non-hazardous medicinal waste in original packaging. This can include part empty containers of non-cytotoxic/cytostatic medicines, waste medicines, out-of-date medicines or denatured drugs.
● Orange: Infectious waste to be sent for treatment so that it can be made safe before it is disposed of. For example, dressings, bedpans, bandages or any other items that are contaminated with bodily fluids or organic tissues.
● Purple: Waste that is contaminated with cytostatic and cytotoxic medicinal products, including sharps that have been used for cytostatic and cytotoxic treatment.
● Red: Anatomical waste such as organs, body parts and blood bags.
● Yellow & Black: Non-infectious/hazardous hygiene waste, such as; nappies, wipes, gloves and any garments contaminated with non-infectious body fluids. This bin is also often referred to as a ‘tiger’ bin.
● Black: Municipal (domestic) waste such as; food and drink packaging, newspaper, fruit and tissues.
● White: Dental waste, for example: dental amalgam and mercury, excess mixed amalgam and the contents of amalgam separators.
The improper handling of clinical waste not only means disobeying the guidelines, but it also means putting the environment and human health at great risk. In order to ensure you’re handling your waste properly, we’ve put together a list of considerations you should undertake as a business owner who disposes of clinical or sanitary waste:
● Carry out regular training with staff about how to manage your business’ clinical waste. You must always ensure compliance and colour-coded segregation, as well as the minimisation of waste where possible.
● Put up posters about relevant colour-coding to remind staff of their responsibilities and so that they have no excuse not to use the correct bins.
● Always dispose of soft clinical waste in a foot-operated or automatic lidded bin so that you or your staff don’t touch the lid with bare hands.
● Don’t overflow your clinical waste bags. You need to leave enough space to tie them securely with a knot or bag tie. Never let any items fall out or allow the bag to become so heavy that it splits.
● Store your clinical waste bins safely and securely. They should be in a locked room, cupboard or external wheelie bin.
● Postcode your waste to show that it is you and your business that has responsibility for it.
● Document all of your clinical waste. You should receive, sign and date a hazardous waste consignment note for every collection of clinical waste at your business.
● All documentation must include site addresses, names of all personnel involved, a full description of the waste type including shipping terms and the correct European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code for each waste stream.
● Remember to store a copy of your clinical waste documentation yourself in case you need to show it at a later date.
● As per the Environment Protection Act 1990, you’ll need to register with the Environment Agency if you generate more than 500kg of hazardous waste annually.
Here at Devon Contract Waste, we specialise in the collecting, sorting and recycling of commercial waste, including clinical and sanitary waste. We operate across the South West, including Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, and can design the ideal waste management solution for all types of businesses operating in these areas. We are passionate about the environment- all of the waste we collect is transferred to our recycling centre and none of it is sent to landfill.
Whether you’re looking for sustainable office recycling or safe and responsible clinical waste management, outsourcing your waste disposal services to a trusted company makes good business sense. You can guarantee an excellent and professional service that suits your specific requirements. To find out about our wide range of disposal services or to speak to a member of our team about outsourcing your waste management, get in touch with us today.