Help is at hand for healthcare waste management

Recent guidance from the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management is aimed at ensuring all producers of healthcare wastes are aware of their legal obligations and good practice.

The management of waste from all healthcare premises and practices (including those non‑healthcare premises that produce similar types of waste) involves a considerable amount of fairly complex legislation which must be complied with by all parties involved, from the producer through to the final disposal company. It is not just about the law, however, improved awareness and waste management practices help lower costs, protect staff, and reduce environmental impact.

Because of this, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) has published a range of guidance documents over the last two years to help both healthcare practitioners and others who handle healthcare waste in other sectors to understand what they need to do to ensure that they are complying with the law and implementing efficient and cost effective management procedures.

Healthcare type waste
The latest guidance, published early in 2016 and entitled ‘Managing healthcare type waste from non-healthcare activities’, deals with the management of healthcare wastes produced at premises that are not considered to be traditional healthcare providers.

“Existing guidance from the Department of Health covers the management of healthcare wastes in primary healthcare providers such as hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and nursing homes. However, similar wastes which require specialist treatment are also generated in a range of non-NHS contexts, for example beauty salons, tattooists, some types of care facilities, and police stations to name just a few,” explains Wendy Rayner, chair of CIWM’s Healthcare Waste Special Interest Group. “Many of these facilities might be unaware of the regulations governing this waste and we felt it was important to provide support and promote a wider and better understanding of legal requirements and best practice.

The guidance seeks to reinforce the message that everyone producing waste has a legal Duty of Care to ensure that it is managed properly and safely throughout the management cycle, from safe handling, segregation, and storage through to collection, disposal and record keeping. It reflects the fact that more and more SMEs are producing these wastes and may not be confident or have sufficient understanding to segregate waste correctly or engage with waste contractors and secure the right services.

“Because these can be niche sectors, they can be hard to reach and so the CIWM SIG intends to engage with relevant trade bodies. The guidance has already been well received by UKHCA, the professional association for home care, and circulated to their members. Other priority businesses might include gyms, where sharps containers are increasingly being provided, nurseries, and the growing number of cosmetic enhancement clinics,” explains CIWM technical officer Greg Logelain.

This complements two guidance documents on healthcare waste management published by CIWM in 2014 which have been widely welcomed. An Introductory Guide to Healthcare Waste Management in England & Wales April 2014 provides a detailed overview for small producers of healthcare wastes in both healthcare and non-healthcare environments. It is aimed primarily at small producers of healthcare waste, and covers a range of topics including an overview of the legislation, good practice in handling, segregation, storage and transport, and efficient reporting and monitoring systems.

Pre-acceptance waste audits
‘Pre-Acceptance Waste Audits - A guidance document for large healthcare waste producers in England January 2014’ meanwhile, provides simple and concise guidance on pre-acceptance waste audits, as required by the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations.

Pre-acceptance waste audits are required to ensure that healthcare wastes are sent for the correct treatment and disposal, and robust auditing and reporting practices are essential to ensure compliance. Good auditing and classification systems, however, also brings other benefits, including potentially significant cost savings and carbon footprint reductions that can be realised by efficient and appropriate segregation of higher and lower risk healthcare waste streams.

At the time of publication, for example, estimates by the Royal College of Nursing suggested the potential for annual savings of approximately £5.5 million for the NHS if just 20 percent of incorrectly classified infectious waste were to be reclassified as offensive waste with lower associated waste management costs.

Mat Crocker, head of illegals & waste for the Environment Agency, welcomed the guidance, saying: “It is essential that producers of waste correctly segregate and describe their waste to ensure that it is managed correctly and gets to the right place.

“This guidance for producers of healthcare waste sets out how waste audits can help producers both to fulfil their requirements and to enable their waste management contractor to comply with their legal obligations. The Environment Agency welcomes this publication and the work that CIWM has put into its production.”

Further Information

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