Disposal of tissue waste

Regulated disposal of tissue waste has always been problematic. Simply putting them, suitably bagged or binned as appropriate into a licensed clinical waste incinerator is straightforward though often rather disruptive to automatic feedstock flow. However, problems exist.

First among many problems is the issue of handling the wastes. An occasional appendix wrapped in gauze and then into a suitably labelled sack is fine, but many will baulk at manual handling of a leg or arm, whether heavily wrapped or not.

Presently, Scotland has a bigger problem than most following the demise of HES Ltd. If press reports are to believed – and who among us would doubt them?? – HES Ltd left behind ‘a mountain of amputated limbs’. It makes good press and sells newspapers but ‘a mountain’? Surely not, unless we are evolving rapidly to a species of one legged, one armed beings.

But leaving aside newspaper hyperbole, it is suggested that a solution for this particular crisis may be hiding in plain sight.

A report in the Scottish Daily Record refers to a plan to burn toxic body parts in between funerals at public crematoriums was drawn up by the Scottish Government.

Officials set out an astonishing operation to use the sites as an emergency stop-gap last year, despite knowing they didn’t have a licence “for reasons of respect for the deceased”.

The proposals were considered in the run-up to NHS disposal firm HES being stripped of its contract after stockpiling tons of waste.

Documents released under Freedom of Information rules detail a “contingency operation” option drawn up on August 23 that would have seen bags containing body parts, blood and tissue incinerated during free time between cremation services.

The papers say: “Crematoriums do not have waste licences for reasons of respect for the deceased. However, they meet the emission standards for the incineration of anatomical waste.

“Space could be sought at these facilities.

“The Scottish Government may be required to make the initial overture and (environmental agency) SEPA may be required to approve this route.”

Well, its nothing new at all. Over 12 years ago, I was proposing the use of crematoria for large tissue waste incineration. It was met with disapproval, though approaching this with a degree of discretion and respect I doubt that the deceased would object. On one such occasion, the local Bishop was the leader of a vociferous objection, actually the only one who objected but he claimed God on his side.

He wouldn’t back down even after reminding him that the facility was owned, operated and funded by the local authority. That made no difference, and nor did the reminder that non-Christians were cremated in that facility over which he claimed some Almighty jurisdiction.

In other regions, and particularly in areas far from a licensed clinical waste incinerator such as highlands and islands, this suggestion had been met with wide approval. Notwithstanding, when it comes to making a decision, nobody has had the nerve to make that final step – just in case!

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