Caring for others produces many different types of waste. In the community setting, waste is often disposed through the domestic waste route. However, some waste produced requires special handling and disposal, e.g. sharps and waste generated from people who have or may have an infection.

Health and safety issues must be considered and risks assessed and managed appropriately. This should ensure that contaminated waste is disposed of correctly and does not cause subsequent harm. Occasionally, collection arrangements for special equipment or contaminated waste may be required.



  • Wear disposable gloves and apron when dealing with waste.
  • Never overfill waste bags.
  • Always perform hand hygiene immediately after handling waste of any kind.
  • Always ensure that sharps containers are assembled correctly, not stored on the floor and temporary closure mechanisms are used in between uses.

Categories of waste

  • Healthcare (including clinical) waste is produced as a direct result of healthcare activities, e.g. soiled dressings, sharps.
  • Special (hazardous) waste arises from the delivery of healthcare in both clinical and non-clinical settings. Special waste includes a range of controlled wastes, defined by legislation, which contain dangerous or hazardous substances, e.g. chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
  • Domestic waste – must be separated at source into:
    • Dry recyclates (glass, paper and plastics, metals, cardboard).
    • Residual waste (any other domestic waste that cannot be recycled).


NOTE: Care home waste disposal may differ from categories described and guidance from local contractors will apply.

Waste streams

Waste bags in care settings may be colour coded to denote the various categories of waste. Local procedures and policies on waste disposal must be followed.

Yellow and black striped bags (tiger stripe) may be in use in care homes for the disposal of offensive/hygiene waste (previously known as sanpro waste). Examples of offensive/hygiene waste include incontinence products, sanitary waste and nappies.

Safe disposal of waste

  • Always use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Dispose of immediately and as close to the point of origin as possible.
  • Use a ‘swan neck’ technique for closure of the bag and label with date and location as per local policy.
    • Way of closing bag by twisting the top of the bag (must not be more than 2/3 full), looping the neck back on itself, holding the twist firmly, and placing a seal over the neck of the bag (such as with a tag/zip tie).
  • Dispose of into the correct UN 3291 approved waste bin or sharps container.
  • Waste bins should never be overfilled, i.e., once three quarters full, tie them up and put into the main waste bin.
  • Have a schedule for emptying the household bins at the end of the day, and during the day if required.
  • All waste bins should be cleaned regularly with a general purpose neutral detergent.
  • Waste should be stored in a safe place whilst awaiting uplift.
  • When you have finished handling waste, remove PPE and perform hand hygiene.


Used needles or lancets must not be re-sheathed and all sharps must be discarded directly into a sharps container.

Sharps containers must be:

  • Taken to the place where the procedure is taking place and the sharp immediately disposed of after use.
  • Only filled to the mark that indicates that the bin is full – that is, no more than three-quarters.
  • Not placed on the floor, and the temporary closure mechanism must be activated when not in use.
  • Labelled with date and origin of closure.


When disposing of sharps in the community you need to consider the risk to you and the person you care for.

  • If any sharps containers are left in the home, a full risk assessment must be undertaken by a healthcare professional prior to issue/supply to ensure the safe handling and disposal of sharps and sharps containers. If transporting a sharps container in the boot of the car, the temporary closure mechanism must be activated and must be checked and secure.
  • Where patients/clients/residents/service users are involved in administering their own injections, they should be encouraged to safely dispose of the sharps directly into the sharps container.

Follow local guidance on the types of container to be used and whether they can be transported by car or carried by hand.