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Healthcare waste audits guidance released

Guidance for organisations producing large amounts of healthcare waste how to conduct audits has been published by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

The document prepared by the institution’s Healthcare Waste Special Interest Group, with input from practitioners, academics, and consultants, advises on pre-acceptance waste audits.

Pre-acceptance waste audits are required under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations to ensure that healthcare wastes are sent for correct treatment and disposal. Robust auditing and reporting practices are essential to ensure compliance.

Quality auditing should result in efficient and appropriate segregation of higher and lower risk healthcare waste streams, according to CIWM.

The institution said this can also deliver significant costs savings and carbon footprint reductions.

Poor segregation of waste is costly. A Royal College of Nursing report has estimated that if just 20% of incorrectly classified infectious waste were to be reclassified as offensive waste, the NHS could save around £5.5m.

This is the result of infectious wastes costing a median value of £469 per tonne and offensive wastes costing a median value of £501 per tonne.

The guidance includes practical advice on all aspects of healthcare waste management:

  • segregation at source
  • packaging and colour coding
  • storage
  • waste treatment requirements

Mat Crocker Environment Agency

Mat Crocker, head of illegals and waste for the Environment Agency, said: “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.”

Victoria Sawford, environmental services manager for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the guidance would be especially useful for new entrants to the waste management sector.

She added: “It not only highlights the legal requirements but also provides a step-by-step approach to the audit methodology, as well as enabling the user to make an informed decision with regards to the packaging, collection, storage, transportation and disposal routes for the various waste types produced within the healthcare environment.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Nic Hatton

    We are very pleased at MITIE with the CIWM issuing the guidance. We've been pushing for these for a couple of years and the press release from the CIWM includes a case study on the partnership between UCL and MITIE on segregating offensive waste from clinical waste. Full text below:

    Cost and carbon savings case study: A joint initiative between University College London and their waste outsourcing partners MITIE provides a good example of the cost savings that waste auditing and improved segregation can bring. Traditionally UCL had not segregated the healthcare and clinical wastes from its 23 teaching and research laboratories, operating instead on a precautionary approach that meant that all the waste was sent for high temperature incineration.
    Following a comprehensive waste review by MITIE, effective segregation practices were developed to ensure that as much non-hazardous and recyclable waste as possible was diverted away from high temperature incineration to other forms of treatment and/or recovery.
    A winner in the 2011 CIWM Environmental Excellence Awards, the project resulted in a 13% overall reduction in costs, savings in excess of ?100k and a 24% decrease in carbon footprint.

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