Under the changes, which began in February, the Offensive Waste stream is being introduced on a compulsory basis, ensuring that the majority of waste from healthcare settings is disposed of using either alternative treatments, or energy from waste processes that render healthcare waste safe. The switch to the Offensive Waste stream as the primary disposal route for waste produced by the healthcare sector is in line with the HTM 07-01. Anenta said: “The change will significantly reduce CO2 emissions associated with incineration, and dramatically cut the volume of waste sent to landfill.”
Anenta’s analysis of over 2,500 primary care Duty of Care audits has shown, however, that 58% of healthcare professionals with waste management responsibility are unfamiliar with the HTM, the latest iteration of which came out in March 2023, resulting in what the business says are ‘inadequate training and waste management policies’. It said: “This has contributed to poor segregation, and spiralling levels of waste being incorrectly disposed of in Orange waste bags, which go to incineration.”
Anenta added: “Changing primary care waste disposal habits and practices are seen as pivotal if the NHS is to achieve its Net Zero targets, and forms a key part of the NHS’s Waste Strategy. The switch to the Offensive Waste stream is designed to put an end to the disposal of waste via the wrong streams, and is being rolled-out in phases across England. NHS Integrated Care Boards (ICB), with support from Anenta where appropriate, have been informing GP practices when the changes are due to come into effect in their area. This started in the South East of England with NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB. The final area of England, the South West, is due to implement the new Offensive Waste stream in May/June.”
To ‘support the transition’, Health Education England is providing all NHS staff with access to a new e-learning course that Anenta says will ‘play a key role’ in preparing them for the new Offensive Waste stream. Created with the business’s help, the 30-45 minute training module is accessible free via the Health Education England online portal, and outlines what waste should go into which waste stream, correct segregation practices, and ‘other important waste-related guidance’.
Anenta added: “The most noticeable change is the introduction of yellow and black Offensive Waste ‘tiger bags’ as the primary waste stream for healthcare waste, excluding non-contaminated recyclable items. Sharps containers and the current colour coding regime of their lids will remain the same. With the introduction of the Offensive Waste stream, Orange bag volume is set to dramatically fall, as these bags should only be used where soft healthcare waste comes into contact with patients presenting conditions deemed to be infectious (Category B). This one change will cut large waste volumes being incorrectly disposed of through the incineration stream, and also avoid the risk of waste contractors refusing to make collections due to ‘non-compliance’, which could put primary care services at risk of disruption.”
To help avoid this eventuality, all locations that produce clinical waste will now need to complete a new Pre-Acceptance Audit (PAA) – even if current PAAs are in date, to ensure that all waste produced is correctly detailed.
Director at Anenta, Graham Flynn, added: “Without a new PAA audit, which accurately takes account of volumes of Offensive Waste being produced, healthcare waste cannot be collected from waste producers. To avoid this, and potential enforcement action being imposed by the Environment Agency, we’ve worked closely with NHSE, IPC, local commissioners, and industry experts, to deliver the new training module, which is designed to assist and ensure compliance.”