Best Practice Guidance for the Management of Hygiene Waste for Key Producers in Northern Ireland and Scotland
UKW01 Final Report
December 2007

Background to research

This document has been designed to provide assistance to those managing hygiene waste produced as a direct result of healthcare activities and non-healthcare activities, including waste from Care Homes, Shopping Centres, Service Stations and Public Toilets.

This document has been produced to assist waste producers, regulatory agencies and the waste industry. This guidance should help producers identify if they should segregate hygiene waste from other wastes produced on site, and when and who should undertake risk assessments. The importance of risk assessment in environments where both clinical and hygiene waste are produced is emphasised.

Within this document hygiene waste is defined as: waste produced from human or animal hygiene activities, and includes items used for feminine hygiene purposes and for human and animal incontinence. This guidance document advocates the use of the term ‘hygiene waste’ as a replacement to previously used terms such as ‘Group E’ and ‘Sanpro’ waste.

Hygiene waste should not pose a risk of infection and should not contain, or be contaminated with, medicinal products. Waste which poses a risk of infection and/or contains, or is contaminated with, medicinal products should be classified as clinical waste (as defined in the Controlled Waste Regulations) and requires specialist treatment and disposal as such. Guidance on the classification of the clinical waste should be sought from the joint agency hazardous (special) waste guidance titled: ‘Technical Guidance WM2 – Hazardous Waste’.

Producers of hygiene waste from organisations that provide healthcare services (such as the NHS and those in the private health sector) should ensure that risk assessments, guidance and training are in place to assist healthcare workers in segregating clinical and hygiene waste. Risk assessment and segregation may be required by other organisations such as Care Homes and Nurseries in certain circumstances, such as diagnosis of a urinary tract infection, or infection of the gastrointestinal tract.

There are financial and environmental incentives to the segregation of hygiene waste from clinical waste. The cost of clinical waste disposal is, in general, approximately four times that of hygiene waste disposal. However, evidence from a small trials undertaken by NHS Grampian have shown that the cost differential can be much greater, with hygiene waste disposal costs being one tenth of clinical waste disposal costs. Correct identification and segregation of
hygiene waste at the point of production allows the waste to be managed in the most appropriate way at a local level. This may reduce the distance waste is transported, reducing fuel consumption and minimising the environmental impact (carbon footprint).

Irrespective of the amount or type of hygiene waste produced, or the type of producer organisation, this guidance document advocates that best practice is to seek advice and enter into dialogue with waste contractors to find out the most appropriate way to manage hygiene waste on a site by site basis. Unless otherwise specified by the waste contractor (who may be the Local Authority), healthcare producers should consider the use of colour coded hygiene waste containers and separate collection for this waste stream.

This guidance advocates the use of the waste hierarchy principles when choosing a treatment and disposal method for hygiene waste. Information is provided about re-usable hygiene products and the forthcoming WRAP real nappy laundering standard (PAS 106). It is acknowledged that at present, waste management options for this waste stream are limited with landfill being the predominant disposal route. It is suggested that waste producers periodically review segregation, packaging, treatment and disposal options for the hygiene waste stream. Practices may change over time as new and emerging technologies enter the UK market.

It is anticipated that in the future additional guidance will be issued by the Regulatory Agencies identifying how those who manage hygiene waste should comply with the pre-treatment requirement specified in the Landfill Regulations.

Objectives of research

The development of a strategic framework and best practice guidance for the management of hygiene waste, aims to:
Key words: hygiene waste, Scotland, Northern Ireland, healthcare, non-healthcare, waste hierarchy.

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at 20.00 + VAT or hard copy at 25.00, less 20% to FWR members.

N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website