Types of Clinical Waste
Most of the waste produced by healthcare practices is designated as either non-hazardous or hazardous clinical waste and needs to be disposed of in the correct manner. Good clinical waste management involves following the framework of separation/segregation, storage, disposal and documentation, much of which is covered by current clinical waste legislation.
Compared to days gone by, almost 75% of Trusts in the UK now see waste management as one of their main sustainability priorities although their primary driving force is still being compliant with legislation. In 2013, almost 370,000 tonnes of waste were produced by NHS organisations and £86 million was spent on waste treatment and disposal.
There have been major improvements in clinical waste management in recent years, with the introduction of processes such as the pre-acceptance audit allowing contractors to provide a more focused service that is tailored to individual needs. The types of clinical waste remains essentially the same, though our way of dealing with it has certainly changed for the better.
Offensive Clinical Waste
This is clinical waste that is not considered hazardous but which may have offensive odours or be unpleasant in some other way. This includes sanitary hygiene waste, incontinence pads and can usually be disposed of by incineration or deep landfill disposal. If it is produced in the home and has the right container it can also be disposed of with the normal domestic waste.
Hazardous Clinical Waste
Clinical waste that is likely to cause harm to people is more of a problem in healthcare practices and can include any of the following:
- Animal or human tissue.
- Body fluids and blood.
- Excretion such as faeces and urine.
- Dressings and swabs that have been contaminated.
- Needles, lancets and scalpels and any other sharp instruments that need to be made safe.
- Pharmaceutical Waste such as out of date drugs.
Waste medicines, for instance, drugs that are past their sell by date, are normally classified on whether they are considered cytotoxic or cytostatic. This means they have one of the following properties:
- They are acutely toxic.
- They have carcinogenic properties.
- They are mutagenic.
- They can be toxic for those who are pregnant.
Apart from the usual waste that we normally associate with clinical areas there are a host of medical consumables such as gloves and aprons and plastic containers for liquids such as anti-septic hand washes.
Find out more about clinical waste management.
Healthcare centres are not the only places that produce what can be termed clinical waste. Other places include nursing homes and care facilities, dental practices, veterinary surgeries and even tattoo parlours. These can produce contaminated animal waste, needles and substances such as dental amalgam that need to be disposed of properly. The onus is on the practice or business to make sure that they follow the rules and demonstrate compliance with clinical waste management.
Find out more about compliance and clinical waste management in the UK.