New guidance on healthcare waste audits

New guidance on waste auditing for large healthcare producers was published last week (17 January) by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM). Prepared by the institution’s Healthcare Waste Special Interest Group, the document is designed to provide ‘simple and concise guidance’ on pre-acceptance waste audits, as required by the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations. 

Pre-acceptance waste audits are required to ensure that healthcare wastes are sent for the correct treatment and disposal, and robust auditing and reporting practices are essential to ensure compliance. Good auditing, however, also brings other benefits, including potentially significant cost savings and carbon footprint reductions that can be realised by efficient and appropriate segregation of higher and lower risk healthcare waste streams.

The Royal College of Nursing, reporting in its ‘Freedom of Information report on waste management’ has estimated that there is the potential for annual savings of approximately £5.5 million for the NHS if just 20 per cent of incorrectly classified infectious waste was to be reclassified as offensive waste with lower associated waste management costs. It also suggests that healthcare organisations should ‘consider the value of appointing or sharing dedicated waste managers to work within and across organisations to address waste management issues and improve waste outcomes to deliver financial and environmental benefits’.

The new guidance, which has had input from a range of healthcare waste experts, including practitioners, academics, and consultants, has been widely welcomed. Mat Crocker, Head of Illegals & Waste for the Environment Agency, said: 
“It is essential that producers of waste correctly segregate and describe their waste to ensure that it is managed correctly and gets to the right place. This guidance for producers of healthcare waste sets out how waste audits can help producers both to fulfil their requirements and to enable their waste management contractor to comply with their legal obligations. The Environment Agency welcomes this publication and the work that CIWM has put into its production.”

The guidance has also been endorsed by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Victoria Sawford, Environmental Services Manager for the trust, said: 
“I believe this will be a very useful tool, especially for those who are new to the waste management sector. It not only highlights the legal requirements but also provides a step-by-step approach to the audit methodology, as well as enabling the user to make an informed decision with regards to the packaging, collection, storage, transportation and disposal routes for the various waste types produced within the healthcare environment.”

‘Pre-acceptance waste audits: a guidance document for large healthcare waste producers in England’ is available as a downloadable PDF from the CIWM website.