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Follow the colour code: yellow (clinical & highly infectious waste)

02 August 2016

Initial Medical is releasing a series of blogs to help people understand the purpose of the healthcare waste colour codes, and also how important segregation of healthcare waste is. Every month it will be selecting one colour of the colour coding guide; this month’s colour is yellow, which represents clinical & highly infectious waste.

The colour yellow (clinical & highly infectious waste)

Within the healthcare industry, yellow is the colour which represents clinical and highly infectious waste. As part of the best practice colour coding protocols for safe waste segregation and disposal set out by the Department of Health Safe Management of Healthcare Waste Memorandum, all waste products that pose a high infection risk must be discarded into yellow bags or containers. 

This type of waste is almost always classed as hazardous and includes any waste contaminated with body fluids that has been produced from the treatment of infectious patients, or those suspected of having an infection.

Example of yellow waste (soft): 

  • Gloves, masks, aprons
  • Dressings, plasters, bandages
  • Disposable garments contaminated with infectious body fluids

Where can it be found?

Produced during medical and cosmetic procedures, or found in care homes, beauty clinics, GP or dental practices, yellow soft waste has a high potential of harbouring infection and disease. Perhaps a healthcare establishment is dealing with a case of MRSA or a care home is recovering from an outbreak of C.difficile infection – such situations will render any protective clothing, dressing materials or tubing that may have come into contact with the infection, as yellow, highly infectious clinical waste.

Sharp waste

Any sharps that may be produced from delivering an injection to a patient, must be disposed of in yellow sharps bins, this includes, for example, sharps from insulin users or sharps used for anaesthetic injections in a dental surgery. 

Transportation & segregation

In the UK, all movement of waste requires a paper trail. As such, it is important the correct documentation is completed and handed to licenced contractors in order to fulfil legal obligations upon collection. Hazardous waste, such as that coded yellow, requires a Hazardous Waste Consignment Note (HWCN). 

This will include information on the company producing the waste and its premises code, as well as details of the waste itself including a description of the contents, the quantity of waste contained and information on the packaging. Codes must also be included here as required for the Department for Transport. The final documents are filled in by your service technician on the day of collection, with a signature from the relevant professional handing over the waste and again when the waste is consigned for final disposal.

At this point, ‘yellow’ clinical and highly infectious waste is sent for disposal by incineration. This is the most commonly used high temperature treatment for infectious waste but other technologies do exist such as pyrolysis and gasification. The steam generated from this heating process can sometimes be used for heating buildings near the incinerator itself.

Follow the colour code

In order to comply with the relevant regulations and ensure your waste is properly segregated and disposed of, make sure you ‘Follow the Colour Code’. 

It is important to know the different types of colour codes for your waste, if you would like to know more about clinical waste or the different types of waste within the colour coding guide, please view our website.