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Clinical waste is potentially hazardous for humans and the environment, so it must be disposed of correctly. Various regulations and laws in the UK that must be followed to store, remove, and dispose of clinical waste if your business produces any type and amount. Complying with health and safety, environmental, and transport regulations is a legal requirement.

Following proper processes for safe and legal separating, storing, disposing and documentation of clinical waste is vital. The colour-coding system for clinical waste enables businesses to segregate refuse into the correct ‘stream.’ This makes managing medical waste types easier and safer by reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Learn all about clinical waste regulations and legal requirements to ensure your business manages its medical waste safely and responsibly.

Clinical Waste Regulations
and Legal Requirements

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How to manage clinical waste legally

To ensure your clinical waste is managed safely and legally your business will need to consider:

  • Any processes that produce clinical waste, including the types and amounts you create and how frequently
  • The types of clinical waste you produce and how you store it safely before collection
  • How, when, and who removes and transports clinical waste from your premises and what happens to it
  • That you receive all relevant legal documentation related to your clinical waste and that it’s kept safe

When you work with Divert, we ensure that all legislation is carefully adhered to when it comes to transporting your clinical waste for disposal. All our drivers are licensed waste carriers. Managing medical waste can be complicated and confusing for businesses. We provide the support and guidance you need so your business is fully compliant with all the clinical waste legislation in the UK.

What regulations cover clinical waste in the UK?  

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What do clinical waste regulations 
mean for my business?

If your organisation produces any type of clinical waste then it must comply with the relevant regulations – or you may face a fine. These cover how to store, arrange removal, and disposal of clinical waste in ways that protect human health and the environment. Below is a summary of the main regulations covering clinical waste.

Should your business need more support, at Divert we can advise you on the UK regulations for clinical waste when we start working together. Call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online today and speak to one of our friendly experts.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990  

This is the main piece of legislation that covers clinical waste disposal. It outlines that any business that creates any type or amount of medical waste has a duty of care to make sure they manage the waste correctly. This includes ensuring the waste is handled, stored, disposed of, and documented correctly.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides instructions on how to handle waste correctly if you produce or dispose of it. Key areas covered include:

  • Preventing pollution
  • Waste disposal by various methods
  • Statutory nuisances, such as smells
  • Minimising and avoiding waste
  • Energy efficiency

The Controlled Waste Regulations 2012  

These regulations outline that the waste a business produces classes as controlled waste and is therefore subject to the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Waste is classified as any object or substance that needs disposing of. Controlled waste is covered by legislation to maintain control on how it’s handled and disposed of, due to the fact this type of waste could cause harm to human health or the environment.

The Controlled Waste Regulations 2012 cover anyone who deals with waste and has a statutory obligation to make sure it’s done so correctly. This ensures there’s no damage to the environment or harm to human health because of the waste. Key areas covered include:

  • Preventing the escape of any waste you’re responsible for
  • Avoiding harmful disposal of any waste
  • Preventing unauthorised disposal of any waste
  • Making sure the organisation that collects your waste is authorised to do so
  • Providing correct documentation of the waste you produce and get collected

Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005  

Hazardous waste regulations cover the documentation and monitoring of waste through the whole process – from production to waste collection and disposal. Its specific focus is on waste types that are hazardous and have the potential to be a risk to the environment or human health.

The hazardous waste regulations cover:

  • Preventing risk by not mixing waste items and substances
  • Movement of hazardous waste and the documentation required
  • Treatment and handling hazardous waste correctly

Any business producing more than 500kg of hazardous waste must be registered with the Environment Agency. If this isn’t done then no hazardous waste can legally be collected, and your business is committing an offence. This registration process must be renewed each year.

The Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations  

This act controls the transportation of dangerous goods by rail or road. Any business that creates, transports, or disposes of dangerous goods and waste must comply with this regulation. Clinical waste may classify as dangerous goods due to the risk it poses to human health and the environment due to exposure.

Dangerous goods include:

Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013

If you deal with sharp instruments in a healthcare setting then you must follow this regulation. A sharps injury is where a sharp medical instrument causes an injury by cutting or piercing the skin.

If this injury is from something sharp that could be contaminated, the injury must be treated correctly and reported. These regulations only apply to employers and contractors within the healthcare sector whose main activity is the provision of healthcare.

Read our guide to sharps bins
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Statutory Duty of Care Regulations  

These regulations make sure waste is managed safely to mitigate harm to human health and the environment. Anyone who imports, produces, stores, treats, and disposes of waste must follow the Statutory Duty of Care Regulations in England and Wales. There are additional codes of practice to follow in Scotland and Northern Ireland alongside these regulations.

As a business that produces clinical waste, it’s your duty of care to ensure your waste is collected and transferred to an organisation that manages the waste properly from removal right through to its disposal.

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How to follow clinical waste 
guidelines as a business

It may seem complicated as there are various clinical waste regulations and legal requirements your business must follow. As long as you store all medical waste properly, arrange collection by licensed waste carriers, and receive all the appropriate documents, then you should be in a good place. Here are some tips to improve your compliance.

When storing clinical waste, before it’s collected you must:

  • Prevent any waste escaping
  • Avoid any harmful deposit, treatment, or disposal of any waste

When arranging for your waste to be collected you must:

  • Check that the organisation is authorised to collect your waste
  • Ask the organisation where they’re taking the waste and that the proposed location is authorised to accept clinical waste
  • Provide an accurate description of the clinical waste you’re transferring to another organisation using the correct documentation
  • Complete any additional checks if you think the waste is not being handled in line with the duty of care – for example, asking for evidence as to where your waste was delivered to for disposal
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