Anatomy of a clinical waste sector in turmoil

Materials Recycling World report that, as we know, the waste sector has hit the mainstream media headlines again – this time the specialist world of clinical waste services.

A serious situation has arisen for the disposal of clinical waste. An argument between NHS England and two major players, Healthcare Environmental Ser­vices (HES) and Stericycle, could indi­cate that something is very wrong with the way contracts are awarded and the way companies compete.

The first warning sign was in July, when Stericycle was found by a High Court judge of “contriving” a legal chal­lenge against NHS England’s decision to award a clinical waste disposal con­tract to HES for services across Cum­bria and the north-east.

Stericycle had argued that HES’s bid had been “abnormally low”. But in a damning verdict, the judge said the evi­dence produced by Stericycle was delib­erately misleading.

Then, in the first week of October, news emerged that health and social care secretary Matt Hancock had chaired a meeting of the emergency governmental committee Cobra because hundreds of tonnes of clinical waste, including some human body parts, were being stockpiled by HES. The company was not getting rid of the material in high-temperature incinerators quickly enough.


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