Decon Pete – updates to waste management legislation

Decon Pete on waste management regulation

This month, Decon Pete dives into recent changes to healthcare waste management guidelines and what these might mean for you.

There are eight health technical memoranda (HTMs) that are currently in circulation. These cover all aspects of healthcare requirements from decontamination of reusable dental instruments to electrical systems. The Department of Health’s HTM 07-01 focuses on the way all healthcare waste is managed and has just received an update.

The executive summary of the newly updated version states:

  • ‘This document has been produced to replace the 2013 version of Safe management of healthcare waste.’
  • ‘Since 2013, there have been many subsequent changes to environmental legislation and regulation that need to be reflected in the new guidance. In line with NHS clinical waste strategy, there is a need for the guidance to better reflect the principles of circular economy, environmental safeguarding, improved social outcomes, and reducing our carbon emissions from the production/processing of our waste, as well as other new policies from across the waste, health, and environmental sectors. The impact of these is reflected in the revised document.’
  • ‘The new document supports the NHS’s drive to be a net zero health system, prioritising decarbonisation, and circular economy measures in alignment with Defra’s A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment (2018a) and Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England (2018b), as well as the NHS’s Delivering a “Net Zero” National Health Service (2020a) and The NHS Long Term Plan (2019b).’

Waste segregation targets

The key changes within the new document focus on trying to eliminate avoidable waste, supporting a drive to prevent offensive waste being incorrectly classified and to improve the effectiveness of waste management systems. This is outlined in the following targets:

  • 20% of waste segregated to be sent to incineration, with only 4% of that being hazardous/clinical incineration
  • 20% of waste segregated to be sent to alternative treatment
  • 60% of waste segregated to be classified as offensive waste.

The update also includes new actions that are required to reduce the use of single-use plastic items. This is aligned with Government policy and supported by the commitment to be net zero across the whole of the NHS by 2050.

New chapter

The updated document also includes a new ‘Chapter 6’, which focuses on the best practice in the management approach to waste segregation and removal which also includes help with establishing the key principles.

Chapter 6 outlines the need for an effective waste management policy, either in paper form or electronic, which should outline the following:

  • Definitions for the various waste types
  • Employer’s and employee’s responsibilities
  • Education and training requirements and materials
  • Waste management strategy
    • Waste avoidance, reuse and recycling (and associated targets)
    • Waste handling, storage, and transport arrangements
    • Waste treatment and management routes
  • Continuous improvement and audit requirements
  • Occupational health and safety measures
  • Purchasing and green procurement may also be referenced.

Chapter breakdown

The document is made up of six chapters, which focus on the following areas:

  • Chapter 1 – Introduction (outlines the key changes and overview of the HTM)
  • Chapter 2 – Strategic Objectives (outlines the overall approach to reduction in energy and sustainability)
  • Chapter 3 – Principals of sustainable waste management (outlines the importance of good waste segregation and management)
  • Chapter 4 – Legislative Framework (outlines what the regulations say within England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland)
  • Chapter 5 – Technical Approach (Outlines how healthcare waste must be managed to comply to the legislation)
  • Chapter 6 – Management Approach (outlines how effective waste management is to be carried out).

Chapter 5 outlines the importance of understanding the national colour coding and effectively matching your waste appropriately. It also outlines exactly how to dispose of the waste regarding PPE and UN approved bags.

If you don’t have a copy of the newly updated version it can be downloaded from the NHS website here.

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