two empty hospital beds.
Facts about healthcare waste

Hospital Waste Facts

Medical waste is one of the most prominent and challenging waste types for hospitals to manage. NHS providers in England generate 156,000 tonnes of medical waste every year – that’s almost 16 times as heavy as the Eiffel Tower. And the amount of clinical waste hospitals produce has grown over the past three decades.

It’s not just high volumes of medical waste that hospitals create though. They also generate lots of food waste from patient meals, medicine packaging, broken electrical equipment, and more. This must all be managed responsibly to ensure hospitals run sustainably and reduce their carbon footprints.

The NHS has a strategy in place to reduce clinical waste and its carbon footprint across its hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Unwrap more healthcare and hospital waste facts and stats from the UK and around the world.

What causes hospital waste?

The main cause of medical waste in hospitals is providing healthcare services to patients. This includes daily care such as medication that creates pharmaceutical waste, injections leading to sharps waste, and surgeries resulting in anatomical waste and infectious waste. Then there’s all the PPE used by hospital staff that can create contaminated waste.

It’s not just clinical waste that hospitals produce. Leftover patient meals and unserved portions create food waste across hospital wards every day. Packaging waste is caused by deliveries of food, supplies, and equipment  (including cardboard boxes and wooden pallets that can be recycled). Cleaning activities can also create a variety of liquid and chemical waste that requires safe management.

General waste in hospitals is generated by snack wrappers, food scraps, and other non-recyclable rubbish thrown away by visitors and patients. They can also produce dry mixed recycling, such as plastic drink bottles, metal food tins, and scraps of paper and cardboard leaflets, envelopes, and bits of packaging.

Hospital waste statistics

The amount of waste generated by hospitals varies depending on their size, location, and operations. Generally, hospitals in high-income countries create more medical waste than those in low-income nations. There are around 1,200 hospitals in the UK including both NHS and private hospitals and each one produces all sorts of waste.

Get an idea of how much rubbish major healthcare facilities in the UK and around the world produce with these hospital waste statistics:

  • NHS England sends 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste for high temperature incineration (HTI) or alternative treatment (AT) disposal methods
  • The estimated carbon impact of medical waste produced by NHS providers in England is 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • NHS England reports that medical waste needing alternative treatment (AT) disposal is 5kg per bed per day for a non-COVID-19 bed and 10.5kg per bed per day for a COVID-19 bed
  • Hospitals in high-income countries can create up to almost 11kg of hazardous waste per hospital bed per day
  • In low-income countries, hospitals might only produce up to 6kg of hazardous waste per bed per day
  • Hospitals in the USA generate around 9 million tonnes of clinical waste every year
  • Plastic can account for nearly one-third of general waste generated by hospitals
surgery in a hospital.

Hospital food waste facts

Food is important as it helps with the recovery and nutrition of patients, despite the reputation hospital food may have. However, it’s also a big source of waste in hospitals, from preparation and expired ingredients to plate waste from patients. Almost one-fifth of food is wasted in hospitals across the UK.

Lose your appetite with these hospital food waste facts:

  • It’s estimated that up to 18% of food in hospitals goes to waste – around one in six meals
  • Food waste costs the healthcare sector about £230 million every year – equivalent to the salaries for 1,500 Band 1 nurses
  • Each hospital patient produces around 5kg of food waste per week, according to WRAP
  • Aside from clinical waste, it’s estimated that 70% of healthcare waste is related to food waste – this includes food and packaging such as cardboard, plastic, and glass
  • Around 20% of hospital food waste is potatoes, nearly 15% is fruit and vegetables, 10% is bakery products, just over 5% is pasta/rice, and almost another 5% is meat and fish
  • One-fifth of food waste in hospitals is unavoidable
  • About 38% of food waste in hospitals is due to unserved portions
Find more food waste facts

Healthcare waste facts

Medical waste is the main waste type hospitals produce but it’s also generated in other healthcare facilities such as GP surgeries, dental practices, and even tattoo parlours. Safe storage, removal, and disposal are vital to protect human health and the environment. Exposure to some medical waste could spread infection and cause serious health problems.

These healthcare waste facts and medical waste statistics highlight its serious impact:

  • About 85% of waste from healthcare activities is non-hazardous waste, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • The other 15% includes infectious, toxic, and radioactive waste
  • Around the world 16 billion injections are administered each year, but not every needle and syringe is disposed of properly
  • The WHO estimates that injections with contaminated syringes lead to 21 million hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections, two million hepatitis C virus infections and 260,000 HIV infections every year across the world
  • Healthcare waste is responsible for between 1 and 2% of all urban waste produced
  • Globally, it’s estimated that unmanaged medical waste is linked to the deaths of at least 5.2 million people each year
  • Medical waste volumes have increased significantly over the past 30 years and healthcare facilities produce more than ever before
  • Before 1997 in the USA more than 90% of infectious medical waste was incinerated
How to reduce medical waste
medical drip in a hospital.

How should I get rid of hospital waste?

Hospitals must arrange professional waste collection of all rubbish they create by licensed waste carriers. This includes medical waste, food waste, and recycling. Every hospital must have the appropriate bins in place to separate and store clinical, sanitary, hazardous, food, and all other waste safely to reduce the risk of contamination.

At Business Waste we can provide a wide range of free bins for hospitals and healthcare facilities to store any type and amount of waste. There are no delivery or rental fees for the bins, you just pay for collection. Waste removal is available for hospitals anywhere in the UK with flexible collection schedules.

Get a free quote for hospital waste collection today  – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online. Tell one of our friendly team about the type and volume of waste you need removing and a few details about your organisation (such as if it’s a hospital, doctor’s surgery, or private practice and its location) for a tailored price.

free bins icon.

Get a fast and free quote

Get a fast FREE quote for your hospital waste collection

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of hospital waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK