red bin

How to dispose of medical and clinical waste at home

27th Sep, 2018

You can hire a skip to dispose of all sorts of waste, but sadly, medical waste isn’t one of them! You can probably guess why: the short version is that it’s hazardous to human health, and requires specialist disposal. Like with many other types of hazardous waste, though, it’s not always immediately obvious what to do with it instead. This week, we’re answering some common questions about disposing of medical and clinical waste, so that you can minimise the risk it poses and get it on its way as soon as possible.

Why can’t I put medical waste in a skip?

Essentially, for the same reason you don’t want it around your home or family for any longer than absolutely necessary – because it poses a serious risk to human health. Improper disposal can put skip hire operators like us at risk of contracting horrible illnesses or infectious diseases. These types of (thankfully rare) scenarios often involve workers being pricked by needles of unknown substances hidden amongst mixed waste. It’s an absolute nightmare scenario for most people, but it can be a very real danger for us!

rubbish with needles

Similarly, other used medical instruments or bloodied equipment can be equally unpleasant and dangerous to deal with. To protect our employees and everyone else in the waste processing industry, medical waste requires specialist disposal. We’ll go into a bit more detail below!

What counts as medical and clinical waste?

The term covers a relatively broad range of waste, from biological matter to medical equipment and materials. These include:

  • Medical dressings contaminated with body fluid or blood
  • Syringes, needles and other sharp instruments
  • Other waste from someone who’s suffering from an infectious disease
  • Blood or bodily fluids
  • Swabs or dressings
  • Stomach or peg feeding equipment
  • Incontinence pads/nappies
  • Human tissue
  • Radioactive waste
  • Medical instruments
  • Live larvae (sometimes used to treat certain medical conditions)
  • Foetal tissue and placentas from home births
  • Body parts
  • Unused drugs or medicines*
  • Outer dressings and protective clothing like masks, gowns and gloves that aren’t contaminated with body fluids, and sterilised laboratory waste
  • Municipal offensive waste such as non-infectious incontinence pads/nappies, non infectious stoma/catheter bags, feminine hygiene products

* Unused drugs or medicines can typically be returned to your local pharmacy or point of purchase for proper disposal.

Why might you have medical or clinical waste in your home?

As you can probably tell from a quick glance at the list above, all sorts of reasons! For some it’s a natural by-product of becoming new parents. Home births, for example, will produce a fair amount of medical waste, and the baby will produce their fair share of biological waste in the years that follow. You may have or develop a condition which requires continual treatment – self-administered or otherwise – and emergency medical procedures at home can also produce a fair amount of waste.

How to dispose of offensive municipal waste at home

Some medical waste poses slightly less of a health risk than others. On the milder side of the scale is what’s called ‘offensive’ municipal waste. The term is shorthand for non-infectious waste that’s not immediately dangerous, but can still be very unpleasant to deal with. As detailed above, this includes filled nappies and used catheter bags. These shouldn’t be disposed of in skips, but can be often be disposed of alongside general waste in council bins.

bags separated

Dirty nappies for example, need to be bagged up before putting them in the black bins to be collected by your local authority. The same goes for catheter bags and feminine hygiene products. In short, it’s just a matter of keeping them separate from general waste so that they can be easily identified and safely dealt with.

How to properly dispose of medical or clinical waste at home

Like most other skip hire companies, at Skip Hire Network we can’t collect clinical or medical waste from businesses, charities or doctor’s surgeries. That means that unfortunately, you can’t just lob it in a skip!

Above all, you should take care to make sure that any medical waste is carefully separated from other types of waste. So for most used medical equipment, for example they need to go in separate, preferably specially marked bags. These should then be safely stored where no one can reach them, until they can be collected by specialised waste services. Don’t mix it in with general waste!

For used needles and other sharp objects, you’ll need to use a ‘sharps bin’. These can be found at local medical facilities like your GP or local hospital, either publicly accessible or available to order on prescription. They’re specially designed rigid containers designed to provide handlers extra protection from the dangers of exposure to used needles. You can only fill yours up to where it says ‘do not fill above this line’ – and again, you’ll need to keep it in a safe place so it’s not a risk to other people, and out of reach of children.

sharps bin

Your GP or local hospital is also a good port of call if you’re unsure of how to dispose of certain types of medical waste. If they don’t provide the means to themselves, they can often point you in the right direction. Alternatively, you can arrange for clinical waste collection from your local authority. It’s worth noting that this may sometimes be a chargeable service, but don’t expect the prices to be sky-high. They’ll just be covering their costs, and the prices will always need to be low enough to avoid discouraging people from using the service at all.

The good news is that here at Skip Hire Network, the list of what you can’t put in a skip is reasonably short, and most of it’s common-sense. The list of what you can put in a skip, however, is equally broad-ranging, and far more convenient! So for any house clearances, office moves or even just small renovations, look no further than Skip Hire Network. Just type in your postcode to the field on our homepage, and within moments you’ll be looking at your very own instant online quote!