Risk Waste

Clinical risk waste is waste from healthcare facilities, which poses a risk due to its potential infectious nature.

The 30 healthcare risk waste surveys and analysis carried out under the Green Healthcare Programme (GHCP) show potential for a reduction in the amounts entering this waste stream, such as opportunities to ensure that non-risk waste does not get unnecessarily mixed with clinical risk waste. The GHCP reviewed the contents of the healthcare risk waste bags to determine the type of materials within the bags.

Following the 30 surveys, GHCP provided detailed and specific recommendations to the hospitals surveyed on how to reduce their costs relating to healthcare risk waste and to ensure a reduced level of general and recyclable waste entering this stream.

Some highlights of the surveys and analysis include:

1. Nationally, savings of between €800,000 and €1,300,000 per annum could be made in acute hospitals, by ensuring that only healthcare risk waste is put into the healthcare risk waste stream.

2. Healthcare risk waste in acute  hospitals can be divided into three main types (as seen below, click each to enlarge):

risk softrisk rigidrisk anatomical











3. Combined, the in-patient wards, theatre and labs account for 60% of the healthcare risk waste generated in acute healthcare facilities – see below (click to enlarge).

risk waste sources

4.Putting clean, recyclable material into the healthcare risk waste stream is costing a lot of money. It costs nearly €700 more per tonne to dispose of waste as healthcare risk waste, rather than as landfill waste. It costs over €1,000 more per tonne to dispose of waste as special healthcare risk waste (see below, click to enlarge).

As well as this specific guidance, more general guidance was also developed and made freely available to support other hospitals and healthcare facilities save money in a series of risk waste-related documents:

Factsheet on Healthcare Risk Waste

Benchmarks for hospitals to rate themselves with regard to all waste streams

Best Practice Guide on Healthcare Risk Waste Reduction

Best Practice Guide on Healthcare Risk Waste Reduction in Theatres

How-To Undertake a Bin Placement Survey

Case Study Cork University Hospital: Maximising recycling and minimising healthcare risk waste in the theatre

Case Study St. Vincent’s Private Hospital: Clinical Waste Reduction in Isolation Rooms and other areas

Case Study Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore: Minimising Healthcare Risk Waste Reduction and Maximising Recycling in Theatre

Case Study University Hospital Galway: Healthcare Risk Waste Prevention Programme

Case Study Temple Street Children’s University Hospital: Waste Minimisation Programme Overview

Best Practice
How-To Guides
Showing hospital staff how to implement waste prevention
Best Practice Guides
Step by step approaches to best practice in hospitals
Useful information on different waste streams in hospitals