Is Sanitary Waste Hazardous Waste?

sanitary waste woman on period

Sanitary waste and hazardous waste have a lot of overlapping qualities, so it’s easy to see why people are unsure!

Sanitary waste, a term that generally includes items like used sanitary towels, tampons, incontinence products, nappies and similar materials, is a common product associated with living life.

However, the question of whether sanitary waste qualifies as hazardous waste is nuanced and deserves a closer look.

Table of Contents

a sanitary waste bin in a toilet cubicle

What is Sanitary Waste?

Sanitary waste primarily includes products used to manage bodily fluids and menstrual blood.

These products are typically made of absorbent materials such as cotton, synthetic fibres, and superabsorbent polymers, and are often disposed of after a single use.

Common examples of sanitary waste products include tampons, sanitary pads/towels/napkins, nappies, incontinence pads and more.

sanitary products in a bag including tampons and sanitary pads

Defining Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste, is wast that contains substances or has properties that might make it harmful to humans or the environment.

This doesn’t mean that the waste has to be an immediate risk to human health, although some hazardous waste may be.

nappies going into a sanitary waste bin

Is Sanitary Waste Hazardous?

Sanitary waste is generally not classified as hazardous waste under most regulatory frameworks.

Here’s why:

  • Biodegradability and Composition:

    The primary components of sanitary waste are biodegradable materials that do not typically exhibit hazardous characteristics such as ignitability or toxicity.

  • Regulatory Definitions:

    Regulatory agencies usually classify sanitary waste as solid waste or municipal solid waste rather than hazardous waste.

    This classification is based on the nature of the waste and its relative lack of immediate health risks when managed properly.

  • Health Risks:

    While sanitary waste can contain pathogens, the risk is generally considered manageable through proper disposal methods.

    For instance, wrapping sanitary waste in plastic before disposal can mitigate the risk of pathogen transmission.
a woman opening a sanitary waste bin in a toilet cubicle

Environmental Concerns of Sanitary Waste

While not classified as hazardous, sanitary waste poses significant environmental challenges:

  • Non-Biodegradable Components:

    Many sanitary products contain plastics and synthetic materials that do not biodegrade easily, contributing to long-term environmental pollution.

  • Volume of Waste:

    The sheer volume of sanitary waste produced globally is immense, posing logistical challenges for waste management systems.
sanitary products including panty liners menstrual pads and tampons

Disposal Practices

Effective sanitary waste management practices are crucial to mitigate environmental and health impacts:

  • Proper Wrapping and Disposal:

    Sanitary waste should be wrapped in plastic or biodegradable bags before disposal to prevent the spread of pathogens.

  • Use of Special Bins:

    Designated sanitary waste bins in public and private bathrooms can help ensure that this waste is collected and treated appropriately.

  • Incineration and Landfilling:

    In many places, sanitary waste is incinerated or landfilled.

    Incineration can reduce waste volume and destroy pathogens while landfilling, if managed properly, can safely contain the waste.
some tampons on a pink background


While sanitary waste is not typically classified as hazardous waste, it still requires careful management due to its potential environmental impact and the presence of bodily fluids.

Adopting proper disposal practices and considering eco-friendly alternatives can help mitigate these impacts and promote a healthier environment.


  • Can sanitary waste transmit diseases?
  • Are there eco-friendly alternatives to traditional sanitary products?
  • Are there special regulations for the disposal of sanitary waste in public facilities?
  • What happens to sanitary waste after it’s collected?

Get low-cost waste collections for your business

  • 30,000+ customers
  • 12+ years experience
  • Free bins & delivery
  • All UK locations

“Environmentally friendly waste collection and disposal services at an affordable fixed monthly price.”

The Times Logo
Get a Quote Call Us