Reading to stop domestic clinical/sanitary waste collections?

‘A Labour councillor has “kicked up a stink” over a decision to stop the special collection of unpleasant clinical waste after complaints from the public.

‘Following a decision by one councillor and a chief officer, items such as colostomy bags and incontinence pads must now be disposed of in the regular grey bins instead of through a special clinical waste collection.

This is bound to cause concern, and may be in breach of EA requirements to upkeep a standard of waste segregation and keep a record of waste stream volumes. More seriously, there will be concerns regarding health & safety, for collectors and during subsequent disposal. Roundsmen may have inadequate or insufficient PPE items and almost certainly inadequate hand hygiene facilities.

But the primary concerns of those objecting to this cost-cutting measure seem to be rather wide of the mark. Leader of the Labour group on Reading Borough Council, Councillor Jo Lovelock [isn’t it predictable that such items are split by Party allegiance rather than on and scientific or regulatory basis – said:

“I am getting concerns which include loss of dignity and privacy.

“If the bins get full of what is obviously clinical waste, then the refuse collectors and potentially neighbours will know that the person is incontinent or has another sensitive medical problem, which elderly and disabled people are anxious to keep as a private matter.”

‘She said even with a big bin, the amount of such waste could lead to them becoming overfilled, which could be smelly.

But sanitary/offensive waste will smell if placed into a black, grey, Tiger stripe or any other colour bag. If fortnightly collections of domestic waste are to be considered then the problem is exacerbated if this is to replace a weekly clinical/sanitary waste collection service but this is not indicated in the news report.

Clinical wastes may be collected fortnightly as these are unlikely to be associated with odour. However, consideration must be given to matters of safe storage for waste producers who may simply have inadequate space, in flats and apartments or otherwise no space for secure storage in yards and gardens.

The other issue raised by the naysayer which causes some surprise is concern about a lack of dignity for waste producers who might now be required to place their sanitary/offensive wastes into standard domestic waste sacks. What is the problem? In all probability, this will hide those wastes and avoid the social issues surrounding piles of brightly coloured Tiger stripe bags, overprinted with “Sanitary / Offensive Waste” biohazard symbols and additional written warnings, in the front garden or on the pavement while awaiting collection! Presently, Reading Borough Council advertises a “confidential” collection service for clinical and sanitary wastes. Though this may change, it moves from confidential to anonymous and in this regard create no additional concern.

Perhaps the Environment Agency are at the back of all this, slowly and quietly swaying to financial concerns to relax or reverse previous decisions without admitting that previously that had enforced unnecessarily strict waste management and reporting requirements. Wakefield are going down the same route, as noted previously in the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum, so perhaps this is the start of a growing trend.

Alternately, this may be a change proposed by cash-strapped Councils. Will the regulator act, or turn a blind eye?

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