How to dispose of waste safely

words: Simon Bloxham, Safety for Business
Simon Bloxham

The safe management of clinical waste is the responsibility of every member of staff at a funeral home.

Staff must understand how waste should be classified, segregated, and stored prior to collection for treatment or disposal. This is driven by the need to ensure a safe working environment for staff, contractors, and the public, to reduce the environmental impact of waste and to comply with all regulatory obligations and best practice standards.

Waste classification

It is important to know that how a waste is classified determines how it is treated or disposed of.

When classifying healthcare waste, we must first consider whether it presents an infection risk to those coming into contact with it. If it does, the infection risk must be rendered safe either by incineration or alternative (heat) treatment. If not, and the waste is only contaminated by bodily fluids, it may be treated as offensive waste.

We must also consider whether there are additional contaminants present in the waste, such as medicines, chemicals used in healthcare, or items contaminated by these. If they are, these wastes must be incinerated to destroy them. Alternative treatment is unsuitable for these types of contaminants.

Clinical or offensive waste

Waste generated from funeral activities can be classified as clinical waste or offensive waste.

Clinical waste means waste from an activity that:

  • Contains viable micro-organisms or their toxins which are known or reliably believed to cause disease in humans or other living organisms
  • Contains or is contaminated with a medicine that contains a biologically active pharmaceutical agent
  • Is a sharp, or a body fluid or other biological material (including human and animal tissue) containing or contaminated with a dangerous substance.

Offensive waste is not clinical waste and does not present an infection risk but contains body fluids, secretions or excretions. For example, PPE with bodily fluids on it from carrying a deceased person not considered to present an infection risk.

When assessing whether a waste should be classified as a clinical infection risk or offensive waste, staff should consider the medical history of the deceased where available, any clinical signs and symptoms indicating a potential infection risk and, finally, question medical staff on the scene or the relatives.

The approved colour coding for infection risk and offensive waste is provided here with further information on classifying waste in terms of chemical or medicinal contamination.

Transportation of waste

If the waste is classed as offensive waste and is in a tiger-striped bag it can be carried by the funeral home’s private vehicles. If it is classed as hazardous waste – in a yellow or orange bag – it must be transported by licensed carriers.


The safe management of waste is the responsibility of every member of staff. Staff producing must understand how this should be classified, apply appropriate risk assessments, and ensure waste bags provided for all waste streams and their disposal as described above are used and carried out appropriately.

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