How can you make clinical waste disposal more sustainable?


  Posted by: Dental Design      7th April 2023

Clinical waste (Orange – Clinical/Infectious) and (Yellow – Clinical/Highly Infectious)      is one of the most common waste streams in healthcare settings. However, are you certain that you’re segregating this waste correctly as well as disposing of it in an ethical, and environmentally friendly way?

Let’s have a recap on clinical waste as well as exploring some solutions to help you dispose of this waste sustainably.

What is clinical waste?

The Controlled Waste Regulations legislation from 1992 defines clinical waste as ‘Any waste which consists wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or other body fluids, excretions, drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs or dressings, or syringes, needles or other sharp instruments’. It also states that ‘Any other waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or similar practice, investigation, treatment, care, teaching or research, or the collection of blood for transfusion, being waste which may cause infection to any person coming into contact with it’ also counts as clinical waste.[1]

In dental practices, this means that a large proportion of items being disposed of can be categorised as clinical waste, depending on what the item has been used for. This is often where confusion can occur. For instance, if a syringe has been used to administer anaesthetic, it is classed as clinical waste. However, when a syringe is used to inject botulinum toxin, this would instead be classified as cytostatic/cytotoxic waste due to the properties of the chemicals inside. As such, it’s always a good idea to ensure that your team is aware of the exact classification of clinical waste so that items are disposed of correctly.

Why correct clinical waste management is vital

One of the largest concerns surrounding the incorrect disposal of clinical waste is the risk of infections spreading. The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of clinical waste is infectious.[2] However, all it takes is one item harbouring infectious pathogens to be improperly disposed of to put people at risk.

An example of this could be a syringe finding its way into mixed municipal (general) waste. If the patient who was treated using the syringe is carrying a bloodborne disease such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV, then this could be transferred should an individual who comes into contact with the discarded needle injure themselves.

Incorrect disposal of any type of waste is also bad for the natural environment and wildlife that lives there. Clinical waste poses a threat for a number of reasons. As well as being infectious and potentially able to transfer microorganisms to animals, these items may also be toxic or cause injury through sharp edges/points.[3]Additionally, clinical waste can include materials such as plastics that don’t naturally biodegrade. If these were to enter marine environments or other waterways, these plastics could steadily disintegrate, forming microplastics that could accumulate in the bodies of marine life.[4] In fact, plastic waste is responsible for an estimated 100 million deaths of marine animals each year, including fish, seals, sea birds and more.[5]

As such, correct disposal of clinical waste is necessary from both an infection control and eco-conscious perspective. But how can you make sure that your clinical waste disposal process is even more sustainable?

Explore green disposal options

 Typically, in order to help prevent infectious diseases spreading, most waste disposal receptacles are made from plastic. This includes rigid containers and clinical waste bags – both of which are traditionally made from virgin polymers.

So, to help increase waste disposal sustainability in your workplace, why not  explore options made from recyclable or recycled materials? As part of its Sustainable range, Initial Medical has introduced Sustainable Clinical Waste Bags. These are made in the UK using 30% recycled plastic and are manufactured and transported in a greener manner too. Initial Medical also supplies Rigid Cardboard Waste Containers. These are constructed from recycled cardboard and have a high-density polyethylene liner, making them suitable for dry and infectious waste, while also being an eco-friendlier option.

Re-evaluate how you approach clinical waste in your workplace

With clinical waste disposal being such a common requirement in healthcare settings, it’s absolutely essential that individuals understand how to segregate and dispose of it correctly. By doing so, you can help prevent the spread of disease and preserve the natural world, especially if you invest in sustainable solutions made from recycled materials.

To find out more, get in touch at 0870 850 4045 or visit the website today


Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical
Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  

 About Initial Medical Waste 
Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.
For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[1] The Controlled Waste Regulations 1992. Link: [Last accessed December 22].

[2] World Health Organization. Health-care Waste. Link: [Last accessed December 22].

[3] WWF. Waste Disposal. Link: [Last accessed December 22].

[4] Plastic Action Centre. How Plastics Break Down Into Microplastics. Link:,eventually%20reduced%20to%20microplastic%20particles. [Last accessed December 22].

[5] Condor Ferries. Ultimate Roundup of Marine Pollution Facts: The Causes and Impact on both Marine and Human Life. Link:,How%20many%20marine%20animals%20die%20each%20year%20from%20pollution%20and,just%20the%20creatures%20we%20find! [Last accessed December 22].

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