Managing incontinence waste

Managing incontinence waste is a vast problem, and predictably on for which there is generally little care. It’s a waste stream that needs to be shifted, let’s get on with it!

But for many, it’s part of a life-changing illness that shapes and can come to dominate, and greatly curtail, their way of life. Patients do not wish to find themselves in this circumstance, and need support and compassion from the community to help them manage these wastes.

Though special collections of sanitary/offensive wastes create their own problems, generally associated with storage in the home and the ignominy of placing highly visible sacks outside their property each week. And just to make it worse those sacks will be bright yellow, will probably smell, and is packaged into sacks that are overprinted with the words “SANITARY/OFFENSIVE Waste”. Not the sort of thing that endears the neighbours, and can demolish the social role valorisation of the waste producer. We have discussed this manty times before on the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum.

But now, with more and more Local Authorities electing to reclassify sanitary/offensive wastes as domestic and insist that these are co-disposed with domestic waste, many waste producers are becoming alarmed.

No doubt driven by a wish to save money on special collections, those who have struggled for years to manage this separate waste stream are now concerned about placing their sanitary wastes into the general domestic waste steam. It is contrary to all that they have previously been told to do.

But it does solve the storage problem, and it is reasonable to save money providing that no additional risk is likely. And of course not specially marked bags sitting at the doorstep.

The smell won’t go away, so it is difficult to accept that argument and despite uncertainty about the regulatory position the change of policy seems not unreasonable. But it is clear that many Local Authorities are not handling this change very well and failing to support the elderly and infirm, who may be rather set in their ways and who find change difficult to manage.

Most obvious among these problems associated with a change of policy is the volume of waste to be collected. With many LAs getting stroppy about waste volumes and refusing to collect an extra sack or some side waste, this can become a real problem for those managing also lost of bulky incontinence waste. Making this worse is the policy of alternate weekly collections that leaves incontinence wastes sweating for up to two weeks before collection. At that point, odour really will become an issue, as noted in this Reading Post news report.

Great care is required when planning change to services, to predict the consequences of any inadvertent or unexpected knock-on effects. And please, don’t forget the consumer, or resident, or patient, or producer, or ….well, however, and that might even by your Granny!

1 Comment

  1. A substantial number of individuals struggle at home with incontinence. The number of incontinence pads the produce each day creates a substantial problem of storage and disposal and after two weeks the regular domestic waste bin is not capable of holding any more. During hot weather the small can be distressing.

    As sanitary/incontinence wastes are reclassified as suitable for co-dispodsal with domestic, driven solely by economic necessities and contrary to EA gudance, elderly people and others who suffer from incontinence face an increasing problem. Separate collections were generally managed weekly, or as required, but for those who now slip to alternate weekly collections some councils are failing to address the special needs of these residents and questionnably failing to consider their particular needs under the compulsory Equalities Impact Assessment.


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