The world of waste can be a tangle of laws, regulations and standards, which are sometimes difficult to understand and easy to get lost in. In our 50 years of experience dealing with businesses of any size and from a range of different industries in the UK, we can say that a significant percentage of organizations do not know the difference between offensive and hazardous waste.

offensive residue

Offensive waste is non-clinical waste that is non-infectious and does not contain pharmaceuticals or chemicals, but can be unpleasant to anyone who comes into contact with it. Residual health risk from offending waste is considered low when properly separated.

Most homes and businesses generate some form of non-infectious or offensive waste every day, which could include:

Municipal offensive waste, that is, hygiene and sanitary protection waste such as diapers and incontinence pads;

Offensive healthcare waste, i.e. outer dressings and protective clothing such as masks, gowns and gloves that are not contaminated with body fluids, and sterilized laboratory waste.

Offensive wastes do not need to be transported as dangerous goods. This means that the collection and disposal of the waste is significantly cheaper than that of clinical waste or other hazardous waste. However, the safe disposal of offensive waste is a critical and sensitive issue that requires attention in all work environments. There may be potential risks of infection and cross infection disease, if the correct hygiene precautions are not taken.

Offensive debris may include:

human and animal waste from a non-infectious source;

disposable medical/veterinary equipment items such as gowns, casts, etc.;

plasters (minor first aid or self-care) generated by personal use;

animal hygiene waste (animal bedding, dog feces, etc.);

waste from non-health care activities, for example waste from body piercing or tattoo application.

Dangerous residues

Unlike offensive waste, hazardous waste is anything that poses a substantial threat to public health or the environment. The list of items that should be considered hazardous waste is very long, although the most common include:

Paints, inks and pigments

Solvents, pesticides and cleaning products

Vehicle fluids such as antifreeze, oil, and brake cleaners

Electronic waste such as computer monitors

Clinical waste is also considered hazardous due to its infectious nature. The definition of clinical waste covers any waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, or veterinary practices, including waste produced during research, treatment, care, or research procedures.

Strict controls are applied to hazardous waste from the point of its production, to its movement, management and recovery or disposal. Disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste in the same landfill is illegal.

If your business produces or handles hazardous waste, you must take all reasonable steps to:

Prevent waste production.

Reuse, recover or recycle your waste

Dispose of your hazardous waste safely

Hazardous waste disposal should be considered only when reuse, recovery, and recycling are not viable options.

Any organization that produces hazardous waste needs to follow some key steps to ensure that it treats it safely.

Identify hazardous substances in the workplace and the risks they pose to the health of people or the environment.

Decide what precautions are necessary to eliminate risks or reduce them to a level that protects the environment and human health.

Eliminate hazardous substances whenever possible; if this is not possible, control exposure to a level that protects the health of the environment or people who could be affected.

Implement control measures and ensure that they are used and maintained. This includes making sure everyone carries out these procedures on a consistent basis to avoid any health risks.

Control exposure – If substances are airborne, it is important to control worker exposure to ensure they meet workplace exposure limits.

Carry out adequate health surveillance: In certain circumstances, you may need to provide medical checks to workers to ensure that their health is not harmed.

Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies – establish a health and safety management system.

Inform, train and supervise employees to help ensure that their health is not harmed by using hazardous substances.

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