Whilst there are much more exciting sides to any business, how you manage and dispose of your clinical waste is one that must be ticked off and done correctly, in accordance with the appropriate legislation. It isn’t just hefty fines and legal action that should push you towards correctly managing your clinical waste, but also the heavy risks associated with a negligent waste plan – regulations are in place to prevent severe harm being caused to the environment, your staff, the public or anyone responsible for the collection and sorting of your clinical waste.


What is clinical waste?

Clinical waste isn’t something that every business produces- it is, however, often associated with the healthcare sector. It is defined as being ‘any waste which consists wholly or partially of human or animal tissue, blood or other bodily fluids.’

This can include:


  • Excretions

  • Drugs

  • Swabs

  • Dressings

  • Syringes

  • Needles


Any waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or a practice in a similar line of work is often classed as clinical waste. Clinical, hazardous and offensive waste are often confused and grouped together when it comes to defining different waste types. Unlike clinical, hazardous waste is defined as being harmful to humans or to the environment. Offensive waste is any waste which may be considered unpleasant, whether this is due to its smell or appearance.


What regulations monitor it?

Part of dealing with your clinical waste is knowing which laws and regulations you need to abide by/follow. The main piece of legislation that clinical waste management sits under is the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In this act, it states that it is: “Unlawful to deposit, recover or dispose of controlled waste without a waste management licence, or in any way that causes pollution of the environment or harm to human health”

With Clinical waste being a potentially dangerous waste type, the handling of management of it must comply with the following regulations:



The responsibility for safe and proper clinical waste disposal lies with the producer of the waste. A Duty of Care note documents the transfer of waste and records that you, the producer, have done your part in handing your waste over to a carrier in the proper way. Any business disposing of clinical waste must use a registered carrier who will take their waste away to a licensed waste disposal site.

Failure to do so could result in fines, or even the shutting down of premises.


What are the different bag/container types?

There are many different colours of bag, according to the national colour coding system, that if used correctly ensure the safe and proper disposal of clinical waste.


It is important that all clinical waste is segregated properly at the point of production. Mixing different streams of waste is illegal, according to laws in England and Wales, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Separation is best practise for businesses. In separating different waste types, any dangers to employees or related parties is minimised. Each container type and bag colour represents a different waste type, ranging from infectious waste heading to be incinerated to anatomical waste.





Sharps waste includes any device or object that can be used to puncture or lacerate the skin – this can be needles, syringes, injection devices, blades and more.


Infectious Waste

Any waste contaminated with blood and its by-products, such as discarded diagnostic samples containing blood and bodily fluids, contaminated swabs/bandages and contaminated equipment.


Offensive Waste

This is non-infectious waste, which may be unpleasant and cause offense to anyone who comes into contact with it such as hygiene waste, sanitary protection, nappies and incontinence pads etc.


Medical Waste

This is the general name for all waste generated at health care facilities. This can include hospitals, clinics, dental practices, blood bands and veterinary clinics.



This refers to waste that contains cytotoxic or cytostatic medicines, and can include hormonal preparations, anti-viral drugs, immunosuppressant’s and some antibiotics.



This refers to human tissue or blood, which can include heavily soaked materials like swabs and dressing.

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