Published date: 02 December 2020

How to dispose of waste correctly

Clinical waste is on the rise but it's costing the NHS money and causing huge issues in the industry.

COVID-19 and the return of other services resuming within the NHS has meant our clinical waste contractor has reported a high increase in infectious clinical waste - the waste that goes into the orange bags.

However, it seems that these bags are being used for all sorts of waste which is causing huge issues for the clinical waste industry, resulting in missed collections and costing the NHS substantial amounts of money. Indeed, sending waste for heat recovery is 45% more expensive than sending waste to be recycled. 

It's therefore more important than ever to ensure that waste is being segregated into the correct bag or bin  so it can be disposed of correctly and where possible, recycled!

To help with this, we've created a range of posters and guidance which you can put up throughout your building. 

Our 2020/21 pledge to reduce waste

England alone generate 177m tonnes of waste every year. This is a poor use of resources, costs the NHS money and causes environmental damage, for example, waste sent to landfill produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Our goal is to reduce our amount of waste and increase the amount of recycling as much as possible. This pledge sets out what we've done in the past 12 months and what's next on our waste agenda.

Read our waste pledge

Where should I dispose of clinical and general waste?

  • Infectious clinical waste including COVID-19 PPE
    • You should use the orange bags for infectious clinical waste only. This includes COVID-19 waste and other infectious PPE, dressings and bandages etc.
    • These orange clinical waste bags should not be placed in non-clinical areas such as corridors, entrances, staff rooms, kitchens and offices etc so please only place them in infectious clinical waste areas only.
  • Infectious clinical waste that is also contaminated by medicines and/or chemicals
    • You must only put waste items that are both infectious and chemically contaminated (for example some samples and diagnostic kits) in the yellow bags.
  • Non-infectious clinical waste, including face masks in non-infectious areas
    • The yellow and black striped bags should be used for non-infectious clinical waste, e.g. PPE, couch roll, dressings, plasters, bandages, nappies, fem hygiene products etc. 
  • General waste and recycling
    • Paper hand towels, packaging, cardboard, plastic bottles, tins and any other waste items that aren't clinical or infectious must be disposed of in the black bags (general waste) or clear bags (recycling).
    • Please do not put any of these waste items into the clinical bags.

How do I dispose of my facemask?

Non-clinical areas​

Facemasks produced in non-clinical areas such as office areas, canteens etc. would be classed as domestic waste and can go into black (general/domestic) waste bags. Masks should not be disposed of in clear, recycling bags.

COVID wards/areas ​

In direct COVID-19 ward areas, all PPE, including facemasks, should be disposed of in orange (infectious) waste bags.

Other healthcare clinical areas​

Facemasks worn in healthcare areas where patients, visitors and clinical staff are moving around in the healthcare environment i.e. corridors and entrances, should be disposed of in tiger (offensive) or black (general/domestic) waste bags. 

Got a question?

If you have any queries on waste, please contact your local Facilities Co-ordinator/Facilities Support Assistant or our Customer Services team. 

Get in touch