Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Prospect Environment Agency Branch


  1.1  The disposal of clinical waste is currently facilitated by three distinct waste management routes, namely (1) incineration, (2) landfill, and (3) alternative technology (eg microwave, autoclave, etc). These routes are currently regulated under Part I of EPA90 in the case of incineration processes and Part II of EPA90 in the cases of landfill and alternative technology.

  1.2  All of these waste management activities may be considered to be prescribed activities under the PPC Regulations. Disposal by incineration and disposal by landfill are specifically defined activities in sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the regulations respectively. The determination of the whether the disposal of clinical waste by alternative technology is a prescribed activity is not straightforward: it depends on whether clinical waste is considered hazardous waste in terms of the PPC regulations


  2.1  Schedule 1 of the PPC Regulations lists "The disposal of hazardous waste (other than by incineration or landfill) in a facility with a capacity of more than 10 tonnes per day" as a prescribed activity [Section 5.3 Part A(1) (a)].

  2.2  Disposal in this section of the regulations means disposal operations listed in Annex IIA of Directive 75/442/EEC. The use of alternative technologies to disinfect or sterilise the waste that is subsequently sent for incineration or landfill fits within the description D9 of the directive. Disposal operation D9 is defined as "physico-chemical treatment not specified elsewhere in this Annex that results in final compounds or mixtures that are disposed of by means of any of the operations in this Annex".

  2.3  Hazardous waste in this section of the regulations means "waste as defined in Article 1(4) of Directive 91/689/EEC". This article establishes the hazardous waste list. European Commission decisions 2000/53/EC of 3 May 2000, 2001/118/EC of 16 January 2001, and 2001/119/EC of 22 January 2001 updated the European Waste Catalogue and the hazardous waste list. These revisions came into effect on 1 January 2002.

  2.4  Human and animal healthcare wastes are considered in Chapter 18 of the European Waste Catalogue. The waste types listed in Chapter 18 include "wastes whose collection and disposal is subject to special requirements in order to prevent infection" (EWC 180103). Such wastes are considered to be hazardous wastes.

  2.5  For the purposes of this Directive, a waste is classified as hazardous if it is considered to display one or more of the properties listed in Annex III of Directive 91/689/EEC. The property of most relevance to the discussion of healthcare waste is the property "H9 "infectious": substances containing viable micro-organisms or their toxins which are known or reliably believed to cause disease in man or other living organisms." The Directive does not place a lower limit on the amount of micro-organism that must be present for the waste to be considered infectious and hence the presence of any micro-organism reliably believed to cause disease is sufficient to render the waste hazardous.

  2.6  Within the UK hazardous or pathogenic micro-organisms have been subdivided into four groups—Hazard Groups 1 to 4. Micro-organisms designated Hazard Group 1 have been assessed to be unlikely to cause human disease and therefore clinical waste containing Hazard Group 1 micro-organisms should not be considered hazardous waste. Micro-organisms designated Hazard Groups 2, 3 and 4 are all acknowledged as having the potential to cause human disease and as such could be considered to be infectious by the above definition. The degree of the severity of the disease and the availability of treatments influence the designation. Clinical waste containing micro-organisms in Hazard Groups 2, 3, and 4 should therefore be considered to be hazardous waste.

  2.7  It should be noted that the designation of "hazardous" is wider than the designation of "special" arising out of the Special Waste Regulation 1996. Under the SW regulations only clinical waste containing micro-organisms in Hazard Group 4 have been designated as special waste. However the Special Waste Regulations are not relevant to the determination of whether an activity fits the definitions in Schedule 1 of the PPC Regulations.

  2.8  In addition to being infectious, for a waste to be hazardous it must also be subject to special requirements in order to prevent infection. There are many examples of the implementation of special requirements in UK law the most recent being the requirement under The Carriage of Dangerous Goods (Classification, Packaging and Labelling) and Use of Transportable Pressure Receptacles Regulations 1996. Under the regulations clinical waste is considered to be dangerous goods for transport by road because of its infectious nature being known or reasonably expected to contain pathogens. From 1 January 2002 all such clinical waste must be transported in rigid UN approved containers.


  3.1  Clinical waste designated as UK Hazards Groups 2, 3 or 4 should be hazardous waste as defined by European Directive 91/689/EC because of its infectious nature and its special handling requirements.

  3.2  Such a designation would mean that the disposal of clinical waste in alternative technology processes-microwave devices, autoclaves and hot-oil or steam injection augers-with a capacity of more than ten tonnes per day would be regulated under Part A(1) of the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 SI 1973.

    —  The permitting and enforcement of such activities should be carried out by well-qualified and experienced staff. The regulatory regime should be built on the success of the current IPC model where the onus is on the operator to demonstrate compliance rather than one of frequent inspection and grudging improvement.


17 May 2002

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