With Albus Environmental’s commitment to The Planet Mark™, Steve wanted to understand more about how we deal with clinical waste and more specifically, Andrew’s thoughts on the future of the sector that they operate in.
SM Q: What are the primary ways to manage the disposal of medical waste in the UK?
AW A: There are three main ways and these are limited depending on waste type, ownership of the disposal facility and permitting. These are Incineration, Landfill, Autoclave.
SM Q: Disposal of medical waste is highly regulated, what information do you give to customers to show how their waste is being managed?
AW A: The main document used is the Healthcare Technical Memorandum, we use this to help our customers understand their responsibilities and how this links with other governing agencies. We help simplify this by using education and engagement and make sure our customers know this advice is free and forms part of who we are and of course, the service Albus Environmental provide. We welcome our customers to visit us and access detailed audit information giving cradle to grave transparency.
SM Q: Given the spotlight on single use plastic and that some products like nappies take about 40 years to degrade, do you think the industry is doing enough to manage waste and recycling?
AW A: No, the clinical industry is plastic and oil hungry, not only that, because of permitting, risk perception, capacity and competition; the way in which things are being treated is suffocated, leaving little option. In fairness, there needs to be change and this needs to come from the governing agencies – from the UN specification containers to the EA. There are many moving parts that need oiling to allow this sector to catch up to the general waste sector.
SM Q: How will the sector change over the next 10-years?
AW A: Segregation and reclassification of waste is playing a big part. The constraints on spend especially in the public sector is cause for heads of organisations to re-evaluate classifications in term of hazardous and therefore determine disposal routes. The declassification means we will see and have begun to already notice a surge in offensive waste. Offensive waste became a way to be commercially advantageous, meaning higher rates such as incineration could be changed to offensive and margins maintained by utilising landfill and not incurring the expensive rates of a clinical waste incinerator. The problem has been that with the green agenda gaining pace, customers are requiring offensive waste to be incinerated but are climatized to lower costs. The clinical waste incinerators make it non-viable to burn the waste and using municipal incinerators and or alternatives routes remain a challenge. The sector will have to change to adapt to this. Otherwise, I think you will see a further shift by allowing offensive waste to be mixed with general waste, opening the market to larger municipal incineration sites and therefore reducing the clinical market to an even further specialised service. This will ultimately see costs rise and margins being protected. The positive impact may be the need to look at the use of fossil fuels in packaging to help reduce costs.
SM Q: How is Albus Environmental embedding sustainability in its medical waste services?
AW A: First and foremost, from the top to the bottom we have the ethos that “just because its hard doesn’t mean we won’t try“. We are not shying away from our responsibilities just because of the constraints of the market we operate in. By taking on The Planet Mark™ we have invested in our fleet alongside programmes and strategies to reduce vehicle movements. We have reduced our consumption of fuels and materials and we are investing in technology to help us move forward and dispose of waste with the least impact on the environment as possible.
SM Q: Why did you choose The Planet Mark™ to communicate your sustainability credentials?
AW A: The Planet Mark™ has shown itself to have the same ethos as us, because of this it has gained traction in places that were previously unconcerned and had gained buy in from major organisations. The continued work with Eden and Cool Earth shows a long-term commitment, strategy and understanding of a serious issue. The Planet Mark™ network and supporters offer insight and inspiration of how we can all do greener business without hurting our pockets. The sustainable message we receive is greater than just perceived “tree hugging”, it is about an overall sustainable approach.
SM Q: What benefits have you found in measuring and reducing your carbon emissions as part of The Planet Mark™ certification programme?
AW A: It really brings spend and impact to light when we look at the data collected. Regular meetings allow us to evaluate our wastage and therefore the possible improvements that can be made.