Information on Hospital Waste

Waste is a substance or object that is no longer part of the normal commercial cycle and therefore warrants no use anymore. It usually goes to landfill, incineration or is disposed of using alternative technologies. Waste, no matter how it is disposed of, can pollute land, air and water.

In the United Kingdom, as waste producers the NHS have a legal and moral duty to dispose of its waste properly in accordance with the ‘duty of care’ requirements imposed under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 34) and the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991.

Clinical waste containers must be capable of containing the waste without spillage. If they can be re-used they must be capable of being properly cleaned and disinfected which is where our removable body and front opening waste bins are helpful. The lid of the container should be hands free and operated by foot pedal, and must close slowly and securely. This prevents the spread of infection through contact with hands and also stops bacteria getting into the air from the force of a slamming lid.

Download the Health Technical Memorandum 07-01 Safe Management of Healthcare Waste here.



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Hospital waste management is an essential part of hospital hygiene as it can significantly reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill which in the long run will reduce disposal costs.

Waste disposal costs a lot of money which with proper segregated disposal can be saved. The NHS disposes of an average of 250,000 tonnes of clinical waste a year which overall along with the other Health Services produces about 1% of the UK’s annual domestic waste. Only around 15% of hospital waste is hazardous, but when hazardous waste is not segregated and mixed with nonhazardous waste, then 100% of the waste becomes hazardous.This is incredibly expensive with the disposal of clinical waste alone costing the taxpayer an estimated £40 million each year.

To help with the segregation and disposal of waste there is a colour coded system which if used correctly prevents the different types of waste being mixed together and allows for better methods of disposal. The colours, types and examples of waste are described below in the table:

Colour Codes

Waste Disposal Colour
Waste Type
Example of Waste

Hazardous/Infectious Waste
Anatomical waste from theatres. Infectious substance i.e. Ebola fever, viral hemorrhagic fever, smallpox.

Infectious Waste
Soiled dressings, bandages, plastic single-use instruments.

Offensive Waste
Human hygiene waste i.e. incontinence pads, nappies and non-infectious disposable equipment, bedding and plaster casts.

Domestic Waste
General refuse, including packaging, confectionery products, flowers.

Cytotoxic Waste
Chemotherapy treatments, etc.