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by Craig Pryce April 24, 2020

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a hospital or medical centre, you’ve probably noticed the bright yellow wheelie bins about the place — they are hard to miss, after all!

The question of what these yellow bins are used for no doubt crossed your mind at the time, too. It’s not every day you see large wheelie bins indoors, that’s for sure.

So, this article takes a look at these wheelie bins and what they are used to store.

Where yellow wheelie bins are used

A few local councils use yellow wheelie bins for the collection of waste, as do some private waste management services. However, the main users of yellow bins are the NHS and private medical environments.

Places that use yellow clinical waste bins include hospitals, GP surgeries, dental practices, vets, and health centres.

What is stored in yellow wheelie bins?

So, what is stored in these yellow bins, and why are there so many of them in each hospital?

Yellow bins are used for the storage of clinical waste. Specifically, infectious (and potentially infectious) and hazardous clinical waste.

This varies from place to place, but can often include laboratory waste, dressings, swabs, tube and suction sets, dialysis waste, and the PPE of doctors and nurses who are treating infected patients (aprons, gloves, masks, respirators, and so on).

In summary, waste classed as infectious or potentially infectious tends to have been in contact with bodily fluids, such as spit, urine, blood, or pus.

Hazardous clinical waste is non-infectious but dangerous. Examples include surgical equipment and some chemical waste.

Medical waste isn’t placed directly into the yellow wheelie bins, but is placed inside a strong bag first and the bag is tied shut. This prevents most spillages, but if the worst happens and there is a spillage, wheelie bins are famously easy to clean.

How much clinical waste is produced in the UK?

Around 250,000 tonnes of clinical waste is produced in the UK per year, which equates to approximately 1 per cent of all domestic waste.

Only 20 per cent of hospital waste is deemed hazardous according to the WHO (i.e. a threat to human health), but if that waste is not dealt with as such and mixed with non-hazardous waste, then all of it becomes hazardous.

Therefore it is absolutely essential that hazardous waste is treated as such and kept separate from general waste in specific bins.

How is clinical waste dealt with?

Depending on what it is, there are many ways that clinical waste is dealt with after it has been removed from a hospital. These include:

  • Burial
  • Incineration
  • Steam autoclave
  • Microwave
  • Chemical-mechanical treatment

Each has its pros and cons and each works better with some waste types than others. For example, soft waste may be dealt with in a different manner to hard waste.

You can explore our full range of clinical waste wheelie bins on our website.

Craig Pryce
Craig Pryce


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