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For years, businesses and the facilities management companies that serve them have been pushed hard to recycle more waste. Through a combination of education and legislation, recycling has now become part and parcel of commercial waste management

Washroom waste
Credit: iStock

5 December 2017 | Hygieneco


But there are some types of waste which are not suitable for recycling. There are obvious examples, such as the by-products of industries where materials become contaminated by toxic substances, or medical waste in hospitals etc. But then there is one category of waste which all businesses produce which is equally unsuitable for recycling - washroom waste.

Washroom waste covers any type of hygiene product which makes its way into a bin - paper towels, sanitary products and, in places like nurseries, crèches and in public buildings, nappies and other baby cleaning products. There are tight regulations governing how these categories of waste are managed and disposed of. But one thing for sure is that they cannot be sent for recycling, or not without prior processing at least.

Even in an age of heightened environmental awareness, the default solution for washroom waste has remained to send it to landfill. But long term, this is no solution at all. According to one study at the start of this decade, the UK was set to run out of landfill space by 2018. Two thirds of the 57 million tonnes of waste dumped into UK landfill each year comes from commercial sources. Washrooms make a significant contribution to that total.

Although the 2018 date set for the UK’s day of judgement on landfill waste may have been wide of the mark, the message is clear - we do not have an infinite amount of space left to throw rubbish into the ground. Alternative means of disposal must be found sooner rather than later, for washroom waste as for all other types of non-decomposing rubbish.

A choice in hygienic waste disposal

Businesses and facilities service providers are left in a difficult situation here. Because waste sanitary and hygiene products are classified as controlled waste, they have to be very careful about how they manage and dispose of them. As well as being required by law to provide suitable means of disposal in washroom facilities in the form of clearly marked bins, companies must also arrange for the bins to be emptied by a licensed carrier who will then further dispose of the waste in an approved way. In most cases, this means landfill.

So business owners, landlords and FM professionals do not have much power deciding where washroom waste ends up. They cannot unilaterally decide they don’t want it sending to landfill anymore. This is where waste disposal services need to step up, and offer alternatives to their clients.

There are numerous alternatives to choose from which offer a range of other benefits aside from saving on landfill space. Thermal treatment in Combined Heat & Power (CHP) facilities can generate electricity and useful heat energy from waste incineration. Washroom and medical waste can be turned into fuel for CHP via a variety of means, from mechanical biological treatment (MBT) to gas treatment techniques.

Hygieneco is proud to offer our clients the chance to improve their own green credentials with our zero-to-landfill policy on all washroom waste disposal. We hope many other licensed waste disposal service providers will join us in the future by offering similar alternatives.