Biofilters for air pollution control

Biofiltration has always been an existing concept for air pollution control deriving from as early as 1923 where biological methods were proposed to treat odorous emissions.

Advancements in research and technology started in Germany circa 1955 with biofilter treatments applied to address odorous emissions in low concentrations with a high success rate witnessed in Germany in the 1970s.

This success led to further research being developed in the United States and other parts of Europe in the 1980s with external outreach to the rest of the world. By the 1990s, there were more than 500 recorded biofilters in operation both in Germany and Netherlands with a widespread trend starting in the United States.

What is Biofiltration?

Biofiltration is essentially an air pollution control technique involving biodegradation of contaminants. These contaminants are biodegraded by microorganisms that are diffused in a thin layer of moisture referred to as biofilm.

The main use is for the elimination of malodorous gas emissions and low concentrations of volatile organic compounds.

What makes a Biofilter and How does it Work?

The components of a biofilter include a biofilter bed, a support rack, and a fan.

The materials used for the biofilter bed often include peat, compost, soil, gravel, or plastic bits.The support rack is designed to be perforated to allow air flow between the plenum and the biofilter bed allowing contact of the microbes inside the bed material. The purpose of the fan is to collect contaminated air allowing emissions to flow through and for the pollutants to be absorbed in the moisture of the biofilter bed.

The microbes found within the bed material consume and metabolise the pollutants thus reducing the concentrations of the pollutants.

Different Types of Biofilters

There are three main variations of biofilters pertaining to the layout, shape, and bedding media.

On the basis of the biofilter layout, there is a variation for either an open bed which is uncovered and exposed to all weather conditions and a closed bed which contains a small exhaust vent.

On the basis of shape, the biofilter could be designed horizontally (which leaves a larger carbon footprint, is relatively inexpensive, and is easy to maintain) or could be designed vertically (which reduces the carbon footprint, uses a lesser surface area, requires more maintenance, and is higher in cost to build).

With regards to the bedding media, there are two variations which are organic compost or synthetic media. Organic compost typically has an effective lifespan of around 5 years while synthetic media has a longer effective lifespan.

Benefits of Biofiltration

The use of biofilters to treat air pollution leaves a positive environmental footprint through the absence of chemicals and toxins. Not only does it benefit the ecosystem, the effectiveness of biofilters is evident in its ability to remove air pollutants at a low operating cost.

Biofilters follow the laws of conservation and mass balance which acts in accordance with mother nature. In setting up a biofilter system, it is critical that developers acquire a detailed understanding of the environmental site, conditions, limitations, components, logistics, and safety measures in order to set up an efficient biofilter system.

How Easy It Is To Replace Plastic Bags

Shopping is everyone’s nightmare when it comes to packing up the goods and getting them home. But there are simpler ways of doing it for the discerning. Supermarket trolleys are renowned for carrying germs and tests have shown even faecal material can be deposited on the handle as well as E.coli and other germs. The best thing is to be independent of these things and its easy to do.

The first thing is to have your own trolley or carrying bag on wheels. Goods can be deposited straight into it without the need of bags to hump them around. They are also able to be cleaned by you and if you are worried about germs in the supermarket then carry some gloves in the pocket of it so hands are always clean.

The next thing is to make your own smaller bags using a cotton material that is easily obtained. The design is simply squares sewn together on three sides and made to different lengths and widths. Things like celery, for instance, required a longer bag while a bunch of bananas or broccoli need wider ones.

Managing the shopping is also important. Put heavy things like tinned goods on the bottom and fruit, and so forth, on the top. Vegetables can be safely carried in the middle but bread and such should be put in last so as not to squash it.

If everyone followed these simply guidelines the number of plastic bags could be greatly reduced. The environment is suffering because of the billions of such containers used on a daily basis. Research shows they can be in the environment for the next 1000 or more years as they will never break down.

Nothing in nature can deal with plastic and until there is a public outcry the situation will remain the same. We are drowning in it now and animals, birds, and sea life are consuming it as food and feeding it to their young. With the decline in species now it is a matter of a few short years before plastic kills off everything.

4 Staggering Facts About Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste statistics are not very pleasant to look at. Each year more than 5.2 million tonnes of hazardous waste are produced in the UK – mostly by the construction, chemicals, electronics and lubricant oil industries. The production of hazardous waste is growing by an estimated 8 per cent a year but fortunately also the percentage of hazardous waste that goes to landfill (as opposed as re-used or recycled) is quickly dropping. This is because of the stricter regulations and controls that the Environment Agency and the EU have imposed to waste producers and also because of the general greater awareness of the implications of poor hazardous waste disposal procedures.

The first step to a safe, effective hazardous waste management is learning more about the risks that hazardous waste poses. Here are some eye-opening facts about the importance of safely disposing of any toxic waste.

We don’t really know the extent of long-lasting effects of hazardous waste exposure on the human body
People respond to chemical exposure in different ways. Some people may be exposed to a chemical and not get sick. Other people may be more sensitive and have more severe reactions than others. Certain variables play a role in a person’s susceptibility to chemical exposure and adverse health effects such as age, gender, genetics, pregnancy or other health conditions. For foetuses, children, and adolescents, the adverse health effects from exposure to chemicals can be much greater than for adults. The factors that affect their susceptibility include their stage of development and level of activity in their own environment. The human body has the ability to tolerate certain amounts of chemicals and the ability to excrete them. Once a person is exposed to a chemical, it may enter the blood stream, and eventually reach the internal organs. The body will try to filter the toxic elements in order to eliminate them, but it may not be possible to remove all of them. The amount, type, and length of time you are exposed to harmful substances will determine if you are at risk for long-lasting adverse health effects.

Dangers are not limited to illnesses
For instance, a large variety of chemicals can explode. An explosive, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure. Explosive materials may be categorized by the speed at which they expand. Materials that detonate (the front of the chemical reaction moves faster through the material than the speed of sound) are said to be “high explosives” and materials that deflagrate are said to be “low explosives”. There are also some other materials which are merely combustible or flammable if ignited, without exploding. The distinction is not always crystal clear. Certain materials—dusts, powders, gasses, or volatile organic liquids—may be simply combustible or flammable under ordinary conditions, but become explosive in specific situations or forms, such as dispersed airborne clouds, or confinement or sudden release.

Commodities can be killers
We all get in contact with a variety of materials in our everyday life, that are in reality hazardous and need a correct disposal. Here are some examples:

Carbon Dioxide – This non-flammable gas is commonly used to freeze or chill food products during transport to market. Its vapours may cause dizziness or asphyxiation and making contact with the gas or liquefied gas can cause burns, severe injury and/or frostbite.
Sulfuric Acid – It is commonly used in cleaning agents, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining and wastewater processing. Sulfuric acid is highly corrosive and, if it comes in contact with human skin, it can cause severe burns while inhaling the fumes can cause serious lung damage.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – It’s commonly used as fuel to heat appliances and vehicles as well as in refrigerants. It must be stored in pressured vessels to mitigate the fire risks associated with the mixture of hydrocarbon gasses. In a fire, LPG has the potential to cause major explosions.
Argon (refrigerated liquid) – This refrigerated liquid is commonly used in the production of fluorescent light bulbs. It can cause serious tissue damage if it comes in contact with skin and it can be extremely harmful if inhaled. It must be transported in gas cylinders in an upright position to avoid sudden releases of pressure.
Propane – It is used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves and residential central heating. Propane is also mixed with butane to make the vehicle fuel commonly known as liquified petroleum gas.
Chlorine – This volatile substance is highly reactive, especially in the presence of heat. Since chlorine can severely damage lungs and can potentially kill people if leaked, its transportation is best avoided. Chlorine is widely used in swimming pools, water purification and bleach products.
Hazardous waste can be landfilled
In the UK, all waste must be treated before it can be landfilled. This requirement comes from the Landfill Directive (LfD), which aims to reduce our reliance on landfill as a waste management option and minimise the environmental impact of landfill sites. Currently in the UK, there are about 280 landfill sites, but landfills for hazardous waste can only accept hazardous waste. Prior to any load of hazardous waste being accepted at a landfill site, a specialised team will assess the waste and approve its suitability for disposal. Every site needs to train their employees on the classification, handling, management and disposal of most types of hazardous waste. They also need to keep up-to-date with the latest UK and European legislation and most landfill sites provide advice on legal requirements for disposal of all hazardous waste types. Still, in order to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that go to landfill, it is important that waste producers find better ways to manage their waste, continually reviewing how best to manage toxic waste, including whether it needs to be produced at all and whether it can be reused or recycled.

At All Waste Matters, we provide nationwide hazardous waste recycling services to the educational, printing, electronic and healthcare sectors, offering customised collection, treatment, disposal and recycling services throughout the UK. Our extensive Environment Agency issued permit allows us to collect over 99% of all commercial wastes. With over 50 years of experience in the waste management industry, we can not only solve your hazardous waste disposal problems, but also help you reduce the amount of waste produced.

How Easy It Is To Replace Plastic Bags

Shopping is everyone’s nightmare when it comes to packing up the goods and getting them home. But there are simpler ways of doing it for the discerning. Supermarket trolleys are renowned for carrying germs and tests have shown even faecal material can be deposited on the handle as well as E.coli and other germs. The best thing is to be independent of these things and its easy to do.

The first thing is to have your own trolley or carrying bag on wheels. Goods can be deposited straight into it without the need of bags to hump them around. They are also able to be cleaned by you and if you are worried about germs in the supermarket then carry some gloves in the pocket of it so hands are always clean.

The next thing is to make your own smaller bags using a cotton material that is easily obtained. The design is simply squares sewn together on three sides and made to different lengths and widths. Things like celery, for instance, required a longer bag while a bunch of bananas or broccoli need wider ones.

Managing the shopping is also important. Put heavy things like tinned goods on the bottom and fruit, and so forth, on the top. Vegetables can be safely carried in the middle but bread and such should be put in last so as not to squash it.

If everyone followed these simply guidelines the number of plastic bags could be greatly reduced. The environment is suffering because of the billions of such containers used on a daily basis. Research shows they can be in the environment for the next 1000 or more years as they will never break down.

Nothing in nature can deal with plastic and until there is a public outcry the situation will remain the same. We are drowning in it now and animals, birds, and sea life are consuming it as food and feeding it to their young. With the decline in species now it is a matter of a few short years before plastic kills off everything.

7 Tips To Manage Your Chemical Waste Disposal

Chemical waste is a waste that is made from harmful chemicals. It could be a solid, liquid, or gaseous material that displays either a “Hazardous Characteristic” or is specifically “listed” by name as a hazardous waste.

Chemical waste falls under regulations such as COSHH in the United Kingdom. To be considered hazardous, your chemical waste needs to display one or more of these 4 characteristics: Ignitability, Corrosivity, Reactivity, and Toxicity.

Any hazardous chemical waste must be categorized based on its identity, constituents, and hazards so that it may be safely handled and managed. Due to the potential risks associated with the improper handling of chemical waste, its correct management and disposal are vital.

There are strict regulations in place to prevent risks to both the environment and to human health caused by improper chemical waste disposal.

Below, we have outlined some useful tips to follow to safely managing the disposal of your hazardous chemical waste.

1. Identify your chemical waste

Identifying your waste is very paramount, as it is understanding the properties of hazardous waste and how to handle and dispose of it correctly. If you produce, transport, or receive hazardous waste you will have responsibilities under the Hazardous Waste Regulations. You can obtain more information on identifying hazardous waste and the Hazardous Waste Regulations from the Environment Agency. Hazardous waste requires specialist treatment and as such, a proper identification is very important. If you’re unsure if you waste is classified as hazardous or not, give us a call .

2. Pay attention to the current legislation

It isn’t just the Waste regulations and the Hazardous Waste Regulations that you need to comply with. You also need to comply with numerous other pieces of legislation such as the WEEE regulations and the EU legislation. If you find waste legislation difficult to understand, do not worry because a professional waste management company can help. At All Waste Matters we have a knowledgeable team of experts with over 50 years of experience in the field that can advise you on the best disposal strategy for your chemical waste.

3. Designate a hazardous waste storage area

Select an area of your facility that is: — Near where the waste is generated — Under the control of trained personnel — Out of the way of normal business activities Label the area with a “Danger — Hazardous Waste” sign and make the area easily accessible and recognizable for the traffic going in and out and for the external inspectors.

4. Store your Waste Properly

Harmful chemical waste must be stored in leak-proof containers that are compatible with the harmful nature of the material. Never mix toxic waste with non-harmful materials. This ensures that your waste disposal activities do not result in reactions or corrosion in the container. Once mixed, the entire waste becomes harmful. Mixing the materials also makes recycling very difficult. Do not store it in a way that may rupture the container or cause leakage. Choose leak-proof containers that have impermeable surfaces and keep them always in good condition. If necessary, transfer waste material to a container that can be securely closed. Keep waste containers closed except when adding waste. When disposing of, it advisable to label the containers ‘harmful waste’ to give a clear description of the contents. Secondary containment should be in place to capture spills and leaks from the primary container, segregate incompatible hazardous wastes, such as acids and bases.

5. Think about the Environment

When deciding on a waste disposal plan for your hazardous chemical waste, consider what impacts on the environmental any proposed disposal solutions may have. Our environment is precious, so it is important that you choose a waste management service that considers the impact that your business’s waste has on the planet. Your designated waste management partner should also advise you on effective ways to reduce your waste. At All Waste Matter we work with you on your specific hazardous waste disposal plan, which should be designed to take inconsideration your social and corporate responsibility with the aim to preserve resources and work towards a sustainable consumption.

6. Choose a responsible hazardous waste disposal partner

A responsible partner is one that is fit to handle hazardous secondary materials and conducts proper disposal or recycling. Some common questions that you may ask when evaluating hazardous waste disposal companies include: What is the company’s history and ownership history? Have they been involved in any contamination? Does the company have a history of environmental compliance? Have they been subject to any enforcement actions? Is the company in compliance with all required permits? What is the general housekeeping at their facility? Does the company employ trained WAMITAB staff? Is the company financially sound? Does it have adequate environmental liability insurance and provisions for necessary closure and clean-up costs if necessary?

7. Promote waste recycling

In most cases it is possible to recycle your harmful chemical waste, including include acids, solvents, oil and metals. Not only is hazardous waste recycling beneficial to the environment, but it also increases the bottom line of your business. You can be sure of production efficiency and cost reduction due to cut costs on raw materials and waste disposal management. Finally, by recycling your chemical wastes, less hazardous waste is sent for treatment and disposal. This means less need for hazardous waste landfills and incinerators, as well as a decrease in energy used for those systems, which ultimately leads to less pollution.

The 7 Most Common Metals That Can Be Recycled

Metal recycling involves the recovery and processing of scrap metal from end-of-life products or structures, as well as from manufacturing scrap, so that it can be introduced as a raw material in the production of new goods. This may involve a number of steps such as identifying, recovering, refining and reclaiming precious or non-precious metals.

Why refining and recovering metals is important

Recycling in general has become increasingly important in our society. We are accustomed to hearing the three R’s of recycling (reduce, reuse, recycle) to include paper, plastics, bottles, cans, and cardboard; however, many people do not know that you can recycle precious and non-precious metal as well.

There is a wide range of reasons why you should refine and recover your metal rather than wasting it. Recycling metal reduces pollution, saves resources, reduces waste going to landfills and prevents the destruction of habitats from mining new ore. Scrap metal is a continuous resource. Because it can be re-melted and reshaped into new products countless times, recycled metal is a resource that will never be depleted. The production of new metal releases a far greater amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared with making products from recycled metal. These emissions may influence climate change and may also cause harmful levels of air pollution in cities, resulting in potential respiratory health problems for the residents.

Recovering precious metals from end-of -life products can also generate a good extra income. During these uncertain economic times investors have fallen back to the more stable commodities market, with precious metal prices (Gold and Silver in particular) rocketing as a result. Gold, silver, platinum and other precious metals can still be mined from natural sources. But mining is very costly and in many cases, it is becoming easier and more cost-effective to recover those metals from devices that already contain them. A ton of recycled cell phones actually contains more gold than a ton of gold ore that comes from most mines.

How to identify metals to refine

You can easily use a magnet to separate ferrous from not ferrous metals. Ferrous metals contain iron which in most cases makes it magnetic. If a metal is non-ferrous it doesn’t have iron in it, so it won’t stick to a magnet. Various other tests can be made to determine the type of metal and if it can be recycled or not. The most common is the appearance test, which consists in studying the physical features of the metal. Sometimes this can be quite difficult as there are metals that look similar to each other. Gold and brass, for instance, are often being confused as they have a very similar colour. After a deeper inspection, however, you should notice that gold is heavier and brass produces a bell like vibrating sound if you try to hit it. Other useful tests are the fracture test, which helps you identify a metal by analysing its broken part, and the spark test, which looks at the spark produced by touching the metal to a grinder.

To identify precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum you can also follow some simple rules.

1. Precious metals aren’t magnetic — if the metal attracts the magnet, you know it must be an alloy mixture and not a precious metal.

2. Gold won’t scratch glass — real gold is soft and malleable and won’t leave a scratch on a glass surface like other metals similar to gold do. You can also try to run the gold piece on a section of tile. If the piece leaves a black mark, it doesn’t contain pure gold. High-quality gold pieces will leave a yellow or gold streak on the tile’s surface.

3. Silver feels warm to the touch — silver will feel closer to your body temperature when you hold it in your hand and it is also a great heat conductor.

4. Precious metals rub off differently — if you rub an item against a cloth, real gold will leave no mark. With silver items, expect just the opposite. Real silver or silver-plated items will turn the cloth black.

Common metals that can be recycle and how to identify them

– Aluminium One of most unique qualities of aluminium is that it is quite light — three times lighter than iron. Aluminium is also completely non-magnetic, so it won’t stick to even the strongest of magnets. Aluminium doesn’t rust, which makes it very durable. Typical use in: Drink cans, Window frames, Cooking pots, Food packaging, Boats and aircrafts, Overhead power lines

– Copper Copper has a natural pink tone that can darken to look red, yellow or orange over time. When exposed to excess water or oxygen, copper can turn green or black in places where it has been excessively handled. Copper is notoriously soft, so it can be difficult to keep a piece perfectly smooth when working with the copper. If the copper piece is thin enough, you may even be able to bend it with your bare hands. You may also knock on the piece and listen to the sound that it makes. Real copper will have a deep and mellow sound, as opposed to brass, which can be high-pitched and tinny. Typical use in: Wires, Motors, Roofing, Plumbing, Cookware and cook utensils, Rainspouts

– Brass The word brass refers to any alloy that contains copper and zinc. Different proportions of these metals produce different colours, but the most common types of brass have a muted yellow colour, or a yellow-brown appearance similar to bronze. These brass alloys are widely used in machined parts and screws. The hundreds of different combinations means there is no single way to identify all brass. That said, the colour of the brass is usually distinct enough to separate it from copper. Typical use in: Lamp and plug fittings, Electrical terminals, Locks, Marine engines, Valve guides, Door lock components, Wind instruments, Radiator cores, tubes and tanks

– Gold Gold is a shiny yellow colour and does not have an oxide. Golds melting point is 1064.18°C (1947.52°F). It is very soft and is very heavy. It also has a high electrical conductivity (more electricity can pass through it) which means that the connectors on many cords have gold plating. Gold is nonferrous so it won’t stick to a magnet. Typical use in: Jewellery, Coinage, Watches, Electrical connectors, Artificial limb joints, Dentistry, Computers, Electronics.

– Lead is a dull grey when unpolished but it becomes a lot shinier when polished. Lead has a relatively low melting point, 327°C (621°F). Lead is nonferrous and it is even heavier than iron It’s a relatively soft metal, and can be carved with a pocket knife and is used in pencils. It is commonly used on roofs and in construction. Typical use in: Pipes, Flashing, Gutters, Downspouts, Conductor Heads, Ammunition, Cable sheathing, Weights for lifting, Weight belts for diving, Radiation protection.

– Steel Steel is a dense, relatively heavy material that easily rusts, so the surface must be painted, galvanized, cleaned often, encased in concrete, or protected in some other way. Freshly grinded carbon steel looks shiny and metallic; otherwise it has a dull, dark (but still metallic) colour. On a grinder, steel produces lots of sparks. As a rule, the greater the spark bursts, the higher the carbon content of the steel. Typical use in: Bars, Rods, Rails, Wires, Pipes, Automotive parts, Appliances, Fittings, Flanges, Valves

– Silver is a soft, ductile, malleable, lustrous metal. It has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals. Silver is stable in oxygen and water, but tarnishes when exposed to sulphur compounds in air or water to form a black sulphide layer. Typical use in: Jewellery, Mirror manufacturing, Dental fillings, Silver nitrate films for photography and radiography, Electrical contacts, Silver-cadmium batteries, Silver-zinc batteries.

At All Waste Matters we have over 50 years of experience in specialist refining of precious metals in a number of industry sectors. We can help you turn seemingly insignificant scraps into profit for your company. We are both silver refiners and gold refiners and thanks to our extensive expertise we can ensure we will return the maximum value of your material.

The Black Swan of Carbon Pricing

“Climate change is perhaps the gravest calamity our species has ever encountered. It makes genocide and ethnic cleansing look like sideshows at the circus of human suffering.”

– George Minbiot, environmental activist and the Guardian columnist

The essence of climate change dilemma is freeloading: carbon dioxide (CO2) inflicts great damage across the world, but the emitting countries shoulder only a marginal portion of the costs incurred. As a result, emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) in 2012 has increased to 149% compared to 1990’s levels, when the Kyoto Protocol envisioned to decrease the carbon emission at least by 5% within 2012. To offset the carbon emission, Enron and Goldman Sachs developed a pricing mechanism under a carbon trading market. Almost 40 countries and more than 20 cities around the world are already using or planning to adopt this carbon pricing mechanism.

While in theory, carbon pricing makes carbon more expensive to produce through tax and Cap & Trade mechanism, how effective is it in practice in reducing CO2 emission to the targeted level?

While carbon tax is the levy imposed on corporate polluters to buy fossil fuels, i.e., coal or natural gas; these companies in reality pass the cost onto their clients and customers. Under the Cap & Trade pricing, obliging countries and corporations have a ceiling for carbon generation. However, the industrialized countries can trade-off the excessive amount with countries with lesser emissions. This process is rather making heavy industries, i.e., electricity generation, cement, fertilizer, iron & steel and so forth delay investing in clean energy by buying cheap carbon footprint from somebody else. Alternatively, these corporations can also cover their emission by investing in CO2 reducing measures in factories (i.e., a tree plantation CSR agency or a windmill firm) located in the developing countries. These measures amount to relocating the CO2 in the same planet relatively easily and pretending to still achieve the climate action goals! The EU carbon trading system, upon lots of consultation with industries, is sanctioning more carbon rights to the participating industries than their current pollution levels.

The fundamental and structural changes required to shift from fossil fuel to clean energy need political consensus, business reorientation and certainly more expense down the line. If we truly intend to avoid the apocalyptic turnout of climate change and repair the damaged earth, this is the minimum bounty we have to pay. Meanwhile, carbon pricing cannot be the silver bullet to the existing climate change action. The Bali Conference, COP21 (Paris Agreement) and the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) also reiterate the urgency by emphasizing on rudimentary incentives such as subsidy shifting from fossil fuels to clean energies, R&D in alternative energies, and synchronized agenda for different political movements. Moreover, transparency and reciprocity within intergovernmental dialogues should also be ensured before climate change becomes another issue of political struggle and ends with hollow victory statements.

How Do You Dispose of Healthcare Waste?

Whether you run a hospital, a general practitioner surgery, a pharmacy or a laboratory, you have to deal with healthcare waste.

This includes expired pharmaceuticals, bags and vials containing traces of toxic drugs, spilled liquids and contaminated body tissues or fluids. In addition, healthcare waste can include the waste produced in the course of healthcare procedures undertaken by patients at home (dialysis, insulin injections, etc.).

About 10-25% of healthcare waste is regarded as hazardous and may create a variety of health risks. Disposing of pharmaceutical and other chemical waste such as lab waste can be highly problematic.

Healthcare waste can be classified in:

• Infectious waste. Any waste that is suspected to contain pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) in sufficient concentration or quantity to cause disease, such as cultures and stocks of infectious agents from laboratory work, waste from surgery and autopsies on patients with infectious diseases, waste from infected patients in isolation wards and infected animals from laboratories.

• Pathological waste. It consists of tissues, organs, body parts, human foetuses and animal carcasses, blood, and body fluids. Within this category, recognizable human or animal body parts are also called anatomical waste.

• Sharps. These are items that could cause cuts or puncture wounds, including needles, hypodermic needles, scalpel and other blades, knives, infusion sets, saws, broken glass, and nails. Whether or not they are infected, such items are usually considered as highly hazardous waste.

• Pharmaceutical waste. This includes expired, unused, spilt, and/or contaminated medicines, drugs and vaccines that are no longer required and need to be disposed of appropriately. The category also includes discarded items used in the handling of pharmaceuticals, such as bottles or boxes with residues, gloves, masks, connecting tubing, and drug vials.

• Genotoxic waste. This type of waste is highly hazardous and may have mutagenic or carcinogenic properties. It raises serious safety problems, both inside hospitals or practices and also after disposal. Genotoxic waste may include certain drugs used in chemotherapy or body fluids containing chemicals and radioactive residues.

• Chemical waste. Waste in this category consists of discarded solid, liquid, and gaseous chemicals, for example from diagnostic and experimental work and from cleaning, housekeeping, and disinfecting procedures. Chemical waste is considered to be hazardous if it is toxic, corrosive, flammable or reactive in any way.

• Radioactive waste. This includes solid, liquid, and gaseous materials contaminated with radionuclides. It is produced as a result of procedures such as in-vitro analysis of body tissue and fluid, in-vivo organ imaging and tumour localization, and various investigative and therapeutic practices.

It is important that all healthcare waste is safely disposed of to avoid any possible negative impact on the environment and on the public safety.

One of the biggest challenges of managing healthcare waste is that this type of waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health workers and the general public.

Other potential hazards may include drug-resistant microorganisms which spread from health facilities into the environment. The disposal of untreated healthcare wastes in landfills can lead to the contamination of drinking, surface and ground waters.

For all these reasons, management of healthcare waste requires special attention and diligence.

These are the most important steps to follow:

1. Reduce the volume of wastes generated and ensure proper hazardous waste segregation. Waste can be minimised by careful stock keeping. For example, you can keep a record of the amount of each pharmaceutical product that is needed and avoid ordering too much. Establish a “first in first out” system, so that the packages which are going to expire first are used first. Wherever possible, try to negotiate take-back agreements with suppliers, whereby the suppliers accept and dispose of pharmaceuticals that you cannot use. The key to effective management of healthcare waste is segregation (separation) and identification of the waste. Appropriate handling, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste by type reduces costs and helps protect public health. Segregation should always be the responsibility of the waste producer, it should take place as close as possible to where the waste is generated, and it should be maintained in storage areas and during transport.

2. Ensure proper hazardous waste transportation Before transportation of the waste, dispatch documents should be completed, all arrangements should be made between the waste producer, carrier and treatment facility. Vehicles or containers used for the transportation of healthcare waste should not be used for the transportation of any other material. They should be kept locked at all times, except when loading and unloading. Articulated or demountable trailers (temperature-controlled if required) are particularly suitable, as they can easily be left at the site of waste production. Other systems may be used, such as specially designed large containers or skips; however, open-topped skips or containers should never be used for transporting health-care waste.

3. Choose a safe and environmentally compatible treatment of hazardous healthcare waste In recent years, many waste brokering companies have sprung up subcontracting their customers waste to the cheapest bidder, often with no idea if in fact these contractors are licensed to handle such materials. If in doubt please do contact the Environment Agency who will be able to tell you if the company has the correct licensing. As well as the obvious dangers to human health, as the producer of the waste, it is your legal responsibility to ensure correct disposal and avoid prosecution.

All Waste Matters offer specialist chemical and laboratory waste disposal services to an extensive client base throughout the UK.

We started out as a lab waste disposal service for commercial labs but we have now extended our services nationwide to a large customer base of laboratories and health practices.

From our fully licensed waste management facility site in Kent, we can offer a tailored hazardous waste disposal and collection service of any unwanted chemicals and laboratory waste.