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Sorted for Safety

Waste management procedures need to be a high priority for nursing and residential care homes for safety, environmental and economic reasons says Cromwell Polythene Managing Director, James Lee.

 A wide range of waste is produced in nursing and residential care homes. This includes used medical gloves, swabs and dressings, needles and sharps, and incontinence and sanitary waste. Managing this, and particularly any hazardous material, safely and legally can often be complicated.

All waste needs to be dealt with effectively, not only for infection control and prevention, but also to make the best use of our resources. Many materials can be recovered and recycled into new products at the end of their service life; reducing environmental impact as well as being efficient and cost-effective.

Low priority, high risk

Waste is all too often a low priority in healthcare environments, with a lack of awareness about the potential health hazards, and inadequate training in proper waste management. In addition, if the material is not properly segregated, disposal costs increase and there’s the risk of prosecution if the waste is considered to be ‘mixed’ and no longer suitable for the waste treatment or chosen disposal option.

There are four steps to follow when it comes to waste segregation at source. These are ensuring:

  1. there are enough bins
  2. that bins are in the right place
  3. that bins are clearly marked
  4. that instructions are being followed

If good waste management is to become second nature in healthcare, staff training is essential. It needs to be clear to everyone – including agency staff – that correct use of the bins is mandatory, not optional. At the most basic level, staff need to be able to identify and separate different waste types and the bins provided.

Look for quality

Any liner used in a healthcare setting – whether for hazardous, sanitary or general waste – should have been independently tested to prove its effectiveness and safety. Buyers in the healthcare industry should look for recognised quality standards such as the CHSA Refuse Sack Standard and EN standards, such as EN13592, alongside ISO quality management principles.

For a guarantee that they’ll get what they pay for and that the liner will perform, purchasers should ensure the products have a performance rating, contents description, quantity, accurate dimensions, batch reference, and minimum net box weights, clearly marked on the outer packaging.

Cheaper options may seem attractive, but poor quality liners are more likely to burst, putting hygiene, health and safety at risk. Quality, responsibly produced bin liners bring value and efficiencies to the supply chain. They weigh less than other non-viable alternatives like glass and metal. They are also highly efficient at retaining fluids, and help to eliminate environmental leaching. Bin liners produced using high levels of recycled polythene, even up to 100% recycled material are available to help meet sustainability targets.

By ensuring waste management is more than an afterthought in the nursing and residential care homes, staff can ensure they are playing their part in a sustainable future, while maintaining a high standard of care and health and safety for residents, visitors and staff.

Cromwell Polythene is a major supplier of waste management solutions to the healthcare sector and an active member of the Sanitary Medical Disposal Services Association.



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