Posted on: 29th Aug 2019
The Clinical Waste Market
This month, Tradebe announced their Rochester facility had expanded capacity by 50%, increasing the UK’s clinical waste capacity. This is good news for those in the industry, particularly after the recent collapse of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES). However, this does not deal with the real issue which is a lack of clinical waste incineration capacity and it is Andusia’s opinion that there is still a lot more to be done to bridge the capacity gap and ensure disposal of such waste is carried out in the safest manner.
The true size of the clinical waste incinerator market is hard to gauge, data in the public domain differs hugely from one another. As summarised in the 2019 Anenta report ‘UK clinical waste incineration capacity’, on the face of it the market is big enough to cope, but when you get down to the actual figures, it appears only half as able to deal with clinical waste than stated by the EA.
In April this year, Andusia announced that they have been confirmed as the sole waste supplier to a new clinical waste treatment plant in Worcestershire. The new plant, which is being developed in an existing, retired plant in Malvern, is the first of its kind to be built in the UK in the last decade and is one of up to four planned in the next few years. It is Andusia’s view that once Malvern comes online it will help towards shrinking the capacity gap significantly
Following the HES demise, the UK government are permitting disposal of many clinical waste streams via, in Andusia’s view, inappropriate (largely domestic) disposal plants, via special dispensation. This cannot be a long-term solution and should have only been a temporary fix but this is still continuing.
The recentAnenta report and HTM0701 (the Government’s Health Technical Memorandum on best practice for disposal of healthcare waste) verifies that under the laws prior to the collapse of HES, the segregation and transport of clinical waste meant that it had to be meticulously sealed, stored and segregated. However, the dispensations granted to various companies have meant that these laws have been largely abandoned for a length of time for a select few contracts.
Waste streams are given different codes and coloured receptacles so that they canbe handled differently, and therefore disposed of given the indicated level of risk perceived from an authority, as set out in HTM0701.
In addition, domestic waste incinerators are not suitable or set up for clinical waste streams. Specific incinerators should be used for the disposal of clinical waste so that the hazardous and infectious portions of the waste streams are dealt with appropriately. These incinerators require a higher temperature for a longer residence time compared to domestic waste incineration facilities (HTM0701, section 11).
Domestic waste incinerators are not designed for this, and there is no guarantee of destruction of medicines, or inactivation of microorganisms in the domestic plants. Domestic incinerators are not permitted by the Environment Agency for these waste types for this reason.
It is Andusia’s opinion that the current actions permitted by Government are threatening the future of any much-needed investment in the sector, that is long overdue. Sadly, clinical waste companies and governing bodies are working in isolation. As stated in the Anenta report, in order for the UK waste industry to overcome the issues it currently faces with its clinical waste incineration capacity, we need more collaboration between invested parties.