Clinical and Medical Waste Guide 2024

Clinical infectious waste bin

Clinical waste management is an essential consideration for businesses within the healthcare, aesthetics, pharmaceutical sectors and beyond in the UK.

Effective disposal of clinical and medical waste not only ensures environmental safety but also complies with stringent health regulations.

This ultimate guide provides all the information UK business owners need to know about clinical waste, medical waste disposal, and the various types of clinical waste, including the various bins required and handling procedures.

Table of Contents

What is Clinical Waste?

Clinical waste, also referred to as medical waste, is any waste material that arises from healthcare or similar activities, which could pose a risk of infection or harm to humans or the environment.

This includes waste generated by hospitals, dental practices, laboratories, veterinary clinics, and even beauty salons that perform treatments like tattooing and piercing

Examples include:

  • Fabrics or materials which contain either micro-organisms or toxins which can cause disease. 

  • Materials which have been contaminated with any type of medicine which has a biologically active pharmaceutical agent.

  • Materials contaminated with biological fluids such as rubber gloves, dressings, and PPE equipment.

  • Sharp objects like needles, syringes or scalpels.

What are the Different Types of Clinical Waste?

Understanding the types of clinical waste is crucial for proper disposal & clinical waste segregation.

The categories include:

Sharps waste:

  • Includes all your needles, syringes, scalpels, etc. 

Sanitary waste:

  • Nappies, tampons, menstrual pads, etc.

Infectious waste:

  • Bandages, masks, swabs, gloves, PPE, dressings, wipes etc.

Offensive waste:

  • Empty colostomy bags, incontinence pads, etc.

Cytotoxic waste:

  • Blister pack (for holding pills), medicinal vials, and any material which becomes contaminated with medicines.

Dental waste:

  • Teeth with fillings, unwanted amalgam

Anatomical waste:

  • Organs, body parts, blood bags
Biohazard clinical waste bag

How is Clinical Waste Disposed of Safely?

Safe disposal of clinical waste involves segregation, containment, transportation, and treatment methods that adhere to legal and environmental standards. It typically involves:

  • Segregation: Waste must be separated according to its type in suitable clinical waste bins or bags, using colour coding to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Storage: Waste should be stored securely, in the correct bins, in compliance with health and safety guidelines. Bins shouldn’t be accessible to the public and out of walkways.
  • Collection and Transportation: Licensed clinical waste collection services must be used to transport waste safely to treatment or disposal facilities.
  • Treatment: Depending on the type, waste is either incinerated, autoclaved, or chemically treated to eliminate hazards before disposal.

What are the Clinical Waste Disposal Methods?

Due to its dangerous nature, incineration is the most common method of clinical waste disposal. This ensures that the dangerous substances are removed and the potential for passing on disease is minimised.

Other disposal methods include:

Chemical: this involves either adding chemicals to dissolve products or neutralise their harmful properties.

Irradiative: this uses autoclave microwave technology to kill off any dangerous substances.

Biological process: this uses enzymes to break down components of the clinical waste – although this method is rarely used as it’s still fairly new.

What Clinical Waste Bins, Bags, and Containers Are There?

Appropriate containment is essential for clinical waste management. The UK employs a colour-coded system for clinical waste bins, bags, and containers to distinguish between different waste types:

  • Yellow bags: For highly infectious waste that requires incineration.
  • Orange bags: For infectious waste suitable for alternative treatment methods.
  • Purple bags: Specifically for cytotoxic and cytostatic waste (chemotherapy waste).
  • White containers: For Amalgam dental waste.
  • Red waste bags: Holds anatomical waste (body parts, blood etc).
Yellow and red clinical waste sharps bins

Which Types of Businesses Need Clinical Waste Collections?

Businesses that generate any form of clinical or medical waste require clinical waste collections, including:

  • Veterinary clinics

What are the UK Laws and Regulations for Clinical & Medical Waste?

The UK’s laws and regulations governing clinical/medical waste ensure its safe management and disposal. Key legislation includes:

Businesses must comply with these regulations to avoid penalties and ensure the safety of the public and the environment.

By using a reputable commercial waste disposal company, like us, you can be assured that your business is fully compliant with the various legislation and avoid any fines.

Medical waste in a bin

Clinical and Medical Waste Statistics

  • The NHS produces 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste each year.

  • The healthcare sector produces 4.4% of all global carbon emissions.

  • 85% of healthcare waste is considered general whilst 15% is hazardous.

  • 1/3 of healthcare facilities globally do not safely manage their waste.

  • Clinical waste costs £300 more per tonne to dispose of safely compared to regular general waste.


For UK business owners, understanding and implementing proper clinical waste disposal methods is not just about regulatory compliance—it’s about contributing to a safer, cleaner environment.

By familiarising yourself with the types of clinical waste, disposal methods, and legal requirements, your business can ensure the safe and efficient handling of medical waste.

Remember, the right clinical waste bins, bags, and collection services are pivotal in the effective management of clinical waste, safeguarding public health and the environment.


  • Is clinical waste hazardous?
  • Are PPE and Covid tests clinical waste?
  • What happens to clinical waste after collection?
  • Is there eco-friendly alternatives for single-use plastics used in clinics and hospitals?

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