Professional Comment

Is Your Care Home Throwing Away Money Unnecessarily? It’s The Big Waste Question

By Graham Flynn, MD of Anenta (

You may be surprised, or more worryingly not, to hear that up to 90% of clinical waste and 35% of offensive waste produced in care homes is contaminated with recyclable materials. Big deal! So what, right?

Well, the big deal is that putting recyclables into the most expensive waste stream is costing care homes dearly. The good news is that there are simple solutions that can save your care home thousands of pounds each and every year, at the same time as enabling you to comply with legislation. Graham Flynn, Managing Director of healthcare waste management specialist Anenta explains how in this two-part article.

So, what does it cost your care home to be non-waste compliant? What’s the impact on your staff? How is it affecting your bottom line? Are you meeting regulatory requirements? And what’s the consequence of a poor waste management policy on your waste collection providers? These may well be questions that you’ve not considered too deeply given the pressures of running a care home, but I’m willing to wager that’s all about to change.

Here are a few facts that should make you sit up and think. If you’re not waste compliant – and by that I mean your staff either don’t understand what waste should go into which waste stream, or worse, they don’t care – you could be paying £650-£850 per tonne for waste collection when you could be paying £150-£300 per tonne. That’s an eye- watering difference, right?

It’s a stark example, but if you find that your staff put items into orange clinical waste bags, which should go into other more cost-effective waste streams, that’s exactly what it could be costing you. Items that are not recyclable, which could go into domestic waste, or items that should be in the offensive waste stream – such as heavy incontinent pads – are all too frequently found in the wrong waste stream.

Having proper segregation of waste matters; and not just in terms of cost. Covid-19 has put the subject of proper waste management processes into sharp relief. It’s also led to an accentuation of the problem as items that can and should go into different streams wind up in orange waste bags due to confusion or concern about potential coronavirus contamination.

There’s no doubt about it. Having an ambiguous waste policy is costly on many levels. Audits regularly show that 70% of waste is consistently put in the wrong waste channels within the care home sector. Now, while that might not be costing you £850 per tonne, it will be costing you. The question is how much?

So, what’s the answer to this thorny issue? If you don’t have proper training and a consistent waste management policy in place, nine times out of ten, you’ll find that staff put waste into the closest waste bin to them to save time. If that happens to be the offensive waste bag, that will be costing you £300-£500 per tonne. Granted, that’s not as bad as heavy offensive waste going into clinical waste bags, but it’s still the equivalent of sand through your fingers, and expensive sand at that.

The other way to look at this is that if the 70% of incorrect items were placed in the correct steams, you’ll be making a 70% saving on what your inefficient waste disposal footprint is currently costing you.

To overcome this issue, you first need to understand just how bad the problem is in your care home or care home group. Undertaking an independent audit will help you establish that. It should cover analysis of policies, training and compliance with legislation, and include compositional analysis of waste in a series of spot-checks. To ensure consistency of approach, especially where multiple care homes in different geo- graphic locations are concerned, it should also be undertaken by the same auditor.

Based on feedback from the audits, you can start to resolve many issues at hand. It’s the first step on the path to ensuring that you have a good waste management process in place. It’s a process that will facilitate improvements that are helpful both to the business and to your staff. It will also enable consistency of approach, aiding training, making colleague’s lives easier.

However, it goes deeper than that, and in the second part of this series I’ll explain not only how waste audits keep you compliant – ensuring that hazardous waste can continue to be collected by your waste contractor – but how they enable you to negotiate contracts more cost- effectively, potentially saving your business thousands of pounds each year.

For more information about Anenta, visit or call 033 0122 2143.