10 Examples of Clinical Waste
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2021 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
How can you know whether to classify your waste as clinical or non-clinical? Does it matter if you get it wrong?
If your facility produces any type of clinical waste, it’s the duty of care of your organisation to ensure such waste causes no danger or harm to staff, patients, contractors, or the general public during handling, storage, or transportation.
We’ve listed 10 common examples of clinical waste to improve your understanding of what clinical waste is and make it easier for you to practice safer waste management.
TOPICS WE WILL COVER:
What is Clinical Waste?
Clinical waste refers to a specific category of waste produced in healthcare settings such as hospitals, health clinics, dental practices, and research labs.
This type of waste poses a risk of infection, disease, or harm to anyone who comes into contact with it.
It’s important to note that not all waste from healthcare environments falls under the category of clinical waste, but it’s all considered as healthcare waste.
Please refer to the Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 07-01 for more information on the safe and sustainable management of healthcare waste.
10 Common Examples of Clinical Wastes
Every healthcare worker comes into contact with waste at some point in the working day and it’s critical to be able to identify whether it’s clinical or non-clinical, from both a safety standpoint and a sustainability one.
To help you identify clinical waste, here are 10 common examples:
Sharps waste includes any item that has the potential to cut, pierce, or puncture skin including syringes, needles, scalpels, and other items defined as ‘sharps’.
Anatomical waste includes limbs, blood bags, and waste material from biopsy procedures where tissues or tissue samples may be taken.
Pharmaceutical waste includes any unused or expired pharmaceutical products and/or drugs that aren’t cytotoxic or cytostatic.
Liquid medicine waste includes two main types: medicine delivered via a sharp and unused or expired liquid medicinal products.
Infectious waste falls into one of two categories:
Infectious waste for alternative treatment – waste such as PPE, dressings, and IV tubings that have come into contact with infectious bodily fluids and isn’t medicinally or chemically contaminated.
This also includes waste generated by a patient diagnosed with any communicable disease.
Infectious waste for incineration – waste classified as being highly infectious due to secondary contamination such as medicinal or chemical.
Gypsum and waste containing dental amalgam are considered as clinical waste only if deemed to be infectious.
Cytotoxic or cytostatic waste includes any medicinal product containing hazardous properties such as being toxic, carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction, or mutagenic.
Not limited to medicinal products alone, this also includes waste generated from the care of a patient prescribed a cytotoxic or cytostatic drug.
Any personal protective equipment or other materials that have been contaminated by coming into contact with, saturated, or soaked with blood, bodily fluids, or other materials deemed as infectious.
Microbial waste can include cultures, slides, specimens, or other microorganisms. Even empty vaccine vials might contain contents that may prove dangerous, especially if expired or contaminated with bacteria.
How to Identify Clinical Waste
Every employee or worker of a facility, hospital, or medical centre that produces clinical waste must be able to identify it and maintain proper processes and procedures to ensure it’s contained, isolated, and properly disposed of.Compliant use of containers or bins and storage of such waste is the foundation of safe healthcare waste management and includes every employee from management, on-floor staff, and domestic and portering teams.
Clinical waste can be divided into three broad groups of materials:
- Any healthcare waste which poses a risk of infection.
- Certain healthcare wastes which pose a hazard.
Medicines and medicinally-contaminated waste containing a pharmaceutically active ingredient.
Additional and special requirements can apply to the healthcare waste that originates from a person or an animal who is suspected or is known to have an infection or disease that is likely to contain viable infectious agents or toxins. For example, determination of a potentially infectious waste can include:
- A waste that comes from a patient with an infectious disease.
- Wound infections.
- Hygiene products from a patient diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, vomiting, or diarrhoea that is caused by a toxin or infectious agent.
Respiratory materials expunged from a patient with a respiratory infection, influenza, or open pulmonary tuberculosis
Clinical waste can be deadly, and all the more so if it’s mismanaged or misidentified. Proper handling of clinical waste reduces the risks of contamination and infection transmission, ensuring the protection of healthcare workers, patients, the public, and the environment.
See our Clinical Waste Guide for a better understanding of how to correctly handle, store, manage, and dispose of clinical waste.
Looking for Clinical Waste Guidelines?
With the responsibility for the correct, safe, and compliant management of clinical waste being on the waste generator, it can be a worry to know if you’re getting it right or not. Understanding regulations and legislation is one part of improving your management of clinical waste, but so is keeping healthcare workers trained and up to date on how to identify, handle, and dispose of it in the right way. At Sharpsmart, our mission has always been to make healthcare safer and we’re dedicated to protecting healthcare workers and the environment. Our experts can help you navigate the regulations as well as the treatment and disposal requirements that are not only cost-effective and sustainable, but ensure protection and safety. For more information or for any clinical waste questions you may have, get in touch.