We make no excuses for repeating on the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum criticism of individuals at the Environment Agency who seek to impose their way onto waste management companies dressed up on flimsy pseudo-science that has no sound foundation but serves, as it is deliberately intended so to do, to obfuscate the permitting process.
This takes various forms. Asking for studies of formaldehyde and xylene vapour releases from processing of wastes that might have come from a hospital laboratory where these chemicals are used, in the full knowledge that waste chemicals are not places into yellow or orange sacks. The latest of these rather malicious demands is to perform an assessment of the environmental fate of pharmaceuticals which might be present in waste feedstock.
Never mind that their presence is not known, and might not even be suspected. Never mind that the data would be insufficient in depth to prove, or disprove, anything in general let alone illuminate a particular scientific matter. Never mind that the study might requite a great deal of picking through wastes to identify an occasional tablet or vial in a most inefficient manner.
Never mind, at all, since the provision of a report that proves nothing and is of the most dubious technical and scientific merit in design and execution pampers the bureaucracy, and the individual within it. That seems to satisfy some sort of bizarre power struggle that does not exist but is obviously perceived. Once settled, and the bureaucracy appeased, then permitting can generally go ahead without further problem.
The concerns about occasional drug residues in clinical waste containers is a case in point, and we have discussed this many times previously.
It is important to prevent, through effective source segregation, bulk disposal in clinical waste sacks of sharps bins. Beyond that, forget it since it will contribute far, far less that a proverbial drop in a very large ocean.
Is it not likely that the same residues might be found in a black bag? There are many tens of thousands more black bags, and the impact must surely be far greater, but where is the concern, the effort, the guidance, the regulation and threat of prohibition? In reality, its an individual not an organisational matter, but ne that must be dealt with by that organisation.
Figures released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveal that more than 1 billion prescription items were dispensed in a year – or 1,900 a minute. The report also shows that the 1000.5 million items dispensed in England in 2012 represents a rise of almost two thirds (62.2 per cent, or 383.5 million) compared to a decade ago.
We have said previously that ‘what goes in, must come out’. It does. It cannot be avoided. It cannot be otherwise.
Add to this amazing figure all of the non-prescription drugs and all of those used in veterinary practice or animal husbandry, and the staggeringly large total rather overshadows that odd empty drug vial found in a clinical waste sack, or the residues in a few used syringes, doesn’t it?
It’s about time remove these artificial barriers to administration in the Environment Agency, some of which are probably outwith the accepted regulatory boundaries, and bring science and integrity to the process of waste permitting.