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Waste management

This guideline is for healthcare agencies dealing with solid waste management. Management of liquid waste and gasses are not included in this guideline.

Introduction and objectives

The department has prepared guidance for health services and capital project design teams on ways to consider operational waste management issues in the planning and design of health care capital projects.

This guideline has been developed for healthcare services managers, planners, architects, building design professionals, waste officers, regional directors, program managers, senior management, environmental services staff, clinical and non-clinical staff, engineers, user groups and contractors. It will assist in designing sustainable waste management systems and provide guidance for responding to waste management issues in hospitals associated with planning, construction and ongoing waste management systems for handling waste and recyclable materials.

The waste management guideline sets out best practice approaches to on-site waste minimisation and waste management. The purpose of the waste management guideline is to:

  • encourage efficient building design and establish effective waste management systems in all healthcare developments
  • detail the requirements for handling, storing, collecting and disposing of a range of waste associated with the development
  • minimise waste and collection costs
  • maximise recycling opportunities
  • ensure appropriate separation and storage of waste/recycling healthcare materials
  • ensure on-site waste management systems are well integrated with off-site collection services
  • minimise risk associated with on-site waste management including OHS and infection control.

Obligation for designers

To allow for proper handling and movement of waste in healthcare facilities the following will need to be considered in terms of space, storage, safety as well as handling of goods and movement of waste management.

Section 28 the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 states that:
A person who designs a building or structure or part of a building or structure who knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the building or structure or the part of the building or structure is to be used as a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that it is designed to be safe and without risks to the health of persons using it as a workplace for a purpose for which it was designed.

Waste management in healthcare facilities

Key stakeholders

New / redevelopment capital programs

  • Building planners
  • Architects
  • Project managers 
  • Waste officers
  • Environmental services staff
  • Engineering staff
  • Builders

Operation and maintenance programs

  • Environmental services staff
  • Waste officers
  • Healthcare staff – clinical and non-clinical
  • Engineering staff
  • Waste contractors


  • Senior management

Key objectives in establishing waste management systems for healthcare

  • Establish and maintain waste management policy and waste management responsibilities.
  • Promote environmental awareness and contribute to the protection of the environment by promoting use of resource recovery and recycling facilities.
  • Promote leadership to the healthcare industry by encouraging source separation of materials and maximising re-use and recycling.
  • Ensure practical building design for storing, handling and collecting waste and to minimise waste generation as well as goods movement for transport of waste. 
  • Ensure adequate space and design is provided for storage or waste and recycling containers as well as for collection vehicles to access areas to remove waste and recyclable materials. 
  • Minimise the cost of waste management by reducing waste through promoting re-use initiatives, composting, recycling and sustainable purchasing.
  • Ensure easy use of on-site waste and recycling disposal facilities.
  • Ensure risk-management practices are in place to prevent spillage and risk of stormwater pollution that may result from inadequate waste or recycling storage.
  • Ensure safe and hygienic practices for waste management.
  • Minimise the environmental impacts of waste by applying environmentally sustainable design principles.


It is important for hospital designers to discuss the waste management approach within the facility (such as with environmental services staff, contract managers, infection control staff, waste officers and engineers) to determine issues such as:

  • location of waste management equipment including skips and compactors
  • the requirements of waste disposal areas in wards and patient areas
  • size and various types of containers 
  • movement of waste
  • collection and disposal sites.


In the following table, the two sources of definition are:

  • SV = Sustainability Victoria.
  • ANZCWMIG = Australian and New Zealand Clinical Waste Management Industry Group.
CategoryDefinitionSource of definition
Best practice A process, technique, or innovative use of technology, equipment or resources that has a proven record of success in providing significant improvement in cost, schedule, quality, performance, safety, environment or other measurable factors that impact on an organisation. SV
Clinical and related waste Waste that has the potential to cause injury or infection and includes sharps, human tissue waste, laboratory waste or any waste arising from any source, as specified by an appropriate infection control officer. Also includes dental/veterinary research or treatment that has the potential to cause disease. Related wastes are defined as waste within the waste stream that constitute, or are contaminated with, cytotoxic drugs, chemicals or pharmaceuticals. ANZCWMIG
Collection The act of removing accumulated waste from the generating source. ANZCWMIG
Commingled materials Materials all mixed together, such as plastic bottles with glass and metal containers. Commingled recyclable materials require sorting after collection before they can be recycled. SV
Composting A process of biologically degrading organic materials in the presence of oxygen, yielding carbon dioxide, heat and stabilised organic residues that may be used as a soil additive. SV
Container This refers to any rigid walled receptacle designed for the deposit of clinical and related waste (or other wastes). ANZCWMIG
Cytotoxic waste Materials that are, or may be, contaminated with a cytotoxic drug during the preparation, transport or administration of cytotoxic therapy. ANZCWMIG
Incineration Combustion (by chemical oxidation) of waste material to treat or dispose of that waste material. SV
Healthcare facilities Generator of clinical and related wastes such as hospital, medical, nursing, pharmaceutical or similar practice. ANZCWMIG
Kerbside collection Collection of household recyclable materials (separated or commingled) that are left at the kerbside for collection by local council collection services. SV
Off-site A clinical and related waste treatment, storage and disposal facility that is located away from the generating site. ANZCWMIG
On-site A clinical and related waste treatment, storage or disposal facility that is located on the generating site. ANZCWMIG
Organics Plant or animal matter originating from domestic or industrial sources, such as grass clippings, tree prunings and food wastes. SV
Plastic One of many high-polymeric substances, including both natural and synthetic products, but excluding rubbers. At some stage in its manufacture every plastic is capable of flowing, under heat and pressure, if necessary, into the desired final shape. SV
Recycling A term that may be used to cover a wide range of activities including collection, sorting, reprocessing and manufacture into new products. SV
Resource recovery The process of obtaining matter or energy from discarded materials. SV
Re-use The second-highest option in the waste hierarchy – recovering value from a discarded resource without reprocessing or remanufacture such as garments sold though opportunity shops strictly represent a form of re-use, rather than recycling. SV
Rubbish (general waste) Any waste (excluding recyclable materials) not classified as being within any categories of the clinical waste and related waste stream. ANZCWMIG
Sharps Objects or devices having sharp points or protuberances or cutting edge capable of piercing the skin or container in which they are packaged. ANZCWMIG
Source separation Separation of recyclable material from other waste at the point and time the waste is generated (at its source). This includes separation of recyclable material into its component categories, such as paper, glass, aluminium, and may include further separation within each category, such as paper into computer paper, office whites and newsprint. The practice of segregating materials into discrete materials streams prior to collection by or delivery to reprocessing facilities. SV
Stakeholders Parties having an interest in a particular project or outcome. SV
Waste This term usually refers to any material (liquid, solid or gaseous) that is produced by domestic households and commercial, institutional, municipal or industrial organisations, and which cannot be collected and recycled in any way for further use. For solid wastes, the term may describe materials that currently go to landfill, even though some of the material is potentially recyclable. SV
Waste management Practices and procedures that relate to how the waste is dealt with. SV
Waste minimisation Techniques to keep waste generation at a minimum level in order to divert materials from landfill and thereby reduce the requirement for waste collection, handling and disposal to landfill. The term is also applied to recycling and other efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into the waste stream. SV

This guideline has been prepared indicating principles required for waste management aspects of healthcare facilities including:

  • material containment
  • types of containers
  • designing waste storage areas
  • design of collection locations
  • training and education
  • other issues

Material containment

Containment of materials

All areas of a facility must provide designated containment requirements of the following attributes:

  • waste containers such as skips, wheelie bins, bucket bins, sharps containers, cages for storing the following, but not limited to:
    • rubbish (general waste)
    • recycling (full and partial commingled)
    • confidential paper waste
    • redundant (hard waste) materials for re-use
    • sharps waste
    • clinical waste
    • related wastes
  • materials such as cardboard must be appropriately compacted or baled
  • waste container colours should be aligned with Australian standard AS 4123.7 and ANZCWMIG Industry code of practice for the management of clinical and related waste - 5th edition 2007.

Types of containers

  • Waste containers (skips, wheelie bins, bucket bins, sharps containers, cardboard compactors, rubbish compactors) should meet Australian standards.
  • For more information about clinical and related waste containers refer to Industry code of practice for the management of clinical and related waste - 5th edition 2007.

Designing waste storage areas


Sufficient space in the facility areas must be provided for waste containers and equipment as well as waste likely to generate on the premises between collection periods.

When designing waste storage areas in healthcare facilities, designation of the following locations needs to be considered.

Ward / department disposal areas

There is a requirement for sufficient space to be designated within the ward/department disposal area for waste containers and waste generated between collection periods.

Central bulk disposal areas

There is a requirement in the central bulk disposal areas to provide separate designated areas for:

  • clean, empty or used waste containers
  • secure areas
  • temperature-controlled areas
  • caged storage areas

Location of waste containers

There is a requirement for all disposal areas to be well located for:

  • convenient disposal for users
  • sited away from food preparation and general storage areas and from routes used by the public
  • safe and efficient movement across the healthcare facility and from disposal area to disposal area such as ward/department disposal area to central bulk disposal area
  • safe and efficient accessibility for collection contractors
  • central bulk central storage areas would be located and designed out of public view from the road, patient and public areas, public walkways, near car parking or adjacent to neighbouring residential / commercial / educational properties
  • waste / recycling contained in cages, secure or temperature-controlled areas must be placed in a location where collection trucks, or collection person/s permit easy, convenient and safe access.

Design aspects of waste storage areas

Ward / department disposal areas - point of production

There is a requirement in the ward / departments for secure disposal area sufficient in size to allow for waste to be separated. The ward / department disposal area should provide adequate for space for:

  • containment of waste containers such as wheelie bins for adequate separation of rubbish, recycling and reusable materials including rubbish, recyclable materials, confidential paper, clinical waste and sharps waste during and between collection periods
  • movement of waste materials including manual handling

Central bulk disposal areas

Central bulk disposal areas for should support the following attributes when planning waste storage areas. It should be noted that central storage areas should be sited away from food preparation, storage areas and walkways used by the public.

Clean, empty or used waste container area should be adequately sized to provide enough space for:

  • containment of a variety of empty and used waste containers including wheelie bins, sharps containers and skips for rubbish, recycling, re-use materials including rubbish, recycling, confidential paper and other paper during and between collection periods (this space needs to accommodate all items which are collected from one central location by the waste contractor)
  • equipment including compactors and bailers
  • easy accessibility for cleaning
  • adequate ventilation to prevent build up of odours
  • clear signage and labelling on all door and entrances
  • spill response kit.

Secure areas

should provide enough space for some clinical waste materials such as sharps and cytotoxic waste that require storage in secure areas. These areas should be adequately sized to provide enough space for:

  • containment of used containers including sharps containers and pails for cytotoxic waste to be stored until collection
  • easy accessibility for movement of waste containers
  • easy access for cleaning
  • visual screening from public areas
  • adequate ventilation to prevent build up of odours
  • clear signage and labelling on all door and entrances
  • spill response kit
  • Temperature-controlled areas are required for storing some materials such as clinical waste, clinical waste for incineration only or some related wastes to be stored in a temperature-controlled area. Food waste must also be chilled if not collected within three days of generation. Where waste storage area is temperature controlled, the temperature should be maintained at or below 5-7ºC. These areas should be adequately sized to provide enough space for:
    • adequate ventilation to prevent build-up of odours
    • clear signage and labelling on all door and entrances
    • spill response kit.

Caged storage areas are required for storage of larger items or materials with inherent value such as mattresses, electronic equipment, desks, chairs and office equipment for example. These items must be stored in a caged storage area to reduce the risk of OHS issues arising. These areas should be adequately sized to provide enough space for:

  • adequate ventilation to prevent build up of odours
  • clear signage and labelling on all door and entrances
  • spill response kit.

Other design attributes to consider in central bulk storage areas include the following:

Bin servicing or repair areas should be adequately sized to provide enough space for:

  • containment areas for damaged or new waste containers
  • adequate space for service staff to work with containers to remove and replace wheels and lids safely and without obstruction or OHS issues.

Bin washing facilities must include taps. In addition:

  • the floor surface should be washable with smooth surface and must drain to sewer
  • the concrete floor graded and drained to sewer
  • the area must be undercover to prevent rainwater from entering wash water
  • wash areas are required where waste containers are the responsibility of the facility
  • discharging of wash water must be stated as acceptable on the facilities Trade Waste Agreement.

There is a requirement for all waste disposal areas to consider accessibility and movement of waste containers. Design shall allow for adequate vehicle access, manoeuvring and loading into collection vehicles as well as visual screening from public areas.


Noise affecting staff, patient, visitors, public and surrounding properties should be considered when choosing location of all waste storage areas.


Sufficient lighting must be provided.

Ventilation and odours

  • There should be adequate ventilation to prevent build up of odours.
  • All disposal areas must have their own extraction ventilation system.
  • Mechanical exhaust systems shall comply with AS1668 and not cause any inconveniences, noise or odour problems.

Water supply and hydraulics

A floor waste basket trap connected to the sewer is required within central waste containment areas. A tap facility should also be provided.

Size of storage areas

  • Waste disposal storage areas need to be adequately sized to accommodate the required number of bins, skips, compactors and containment areas. They must be temperature controlled and be flexible in size and layout to cater for future changes of use and growth.
  • The size of disposal areas is to be calculated on the basis of waste generation rates and waste containers. Calculations should be discussed with the collection service providers.

Design of collection locations

Site and access to collection locations

Central bulk disposal area

There is a requirement on the site of the facility for providing suitable locations for loading and unloading clean or dirty materials such as used waste containers such as skips, wheelie bins, sharps containers and cardboard. Containers must be placed in a suitably accessible collection location prior to collection-by-collection contractors. Collection points can include, kerbside, driveway or collection dock where collection trucks have access to enter and turn around. It is not acceptable for a truck to reverse out of a site.

  • If bins are to be collected from the kerbside check if there is sufficient room to store all containers for safe collection, for example, check for trees, poles and signs that may obstruct the collection vehicles mechanical pick up arm.
  • The driveway access to the central bulk disposal areas needs to be suitable for collection vehicles in terms of width, strength and design.
  • The path between waste disposal rooms must be level and free of steps.

Loading docks

There is a requirement for loading docks to be able to facilitate movement of materials in and out of buildings without creating infection-control issues. Loading docks should have the following characteristics:

  • facilitate safe manoeuvring for loading and unloading
  • floor surface should be washable and must drain to sewer
  • positioned appropriately away from food preparation areas, walkways used by the public
  • separation of incoming clean materials and out going dirty materials to prevent cross contamination.


User access and collector access to containers

  • Waste containers in all disposal areas should be clear of obstacles for the user and collector. Waste or recycling containers should not be placed one in front of the other as to restricting access for the user or collector.
  • Disposal areas should be kept closed or locked from public access.

Site access for collection vehicles


  • Collection vehicles need to access waste containers from central bulk storage, temperature controlled, secure waste container storage or loading, collection docks.
  • Access to these areas via service roads wide enough for turning and reversing or driveways should be suitable for heavy loaded collection vehicles.

Access on collection days

All areas

Access to central bulk disposal areas should be free on collection days. There should be no conflicts with other service, collection or delivery vehicles.

Training and education

Signage / education

  • All disposal areas should be clearly labelled as 'Waste storage area - authorised personnel only' on all doors and entrances.
  • Standardised signage on how to use the waste management system and what materials area acceptable into the system must be placed in disposal areas. Signage is available from Department of Health and Human Services, and Sustainability Victoria.
  • All waste containers must be clearly and correctly labelled or coloured to identify which materials are to be placed in which bin.

Other issues


  • All storage areas should contain a spill response kit.
  • All mechanical items must comply with OHS requirements.
  • Compactors or mechanical devices used for storage of waste must comply with OHS requirements.

Infection control

  • Bins should be cleaned on a regular basis, internally and externally.
  • Empty 'clean' containers should be stored separately to full 'dirty' bins to avoid cross contamination.