Are gloves clinical waste?

Clinical, Medical & Dental

Disposable, single-use gloves are a key element of personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing, designed to limit the wearer’s exposure to substances that could endanger their health. This is particularly important in health care settings where workers are likely to come into contact with a whole range of infectious material.

Advice for clinical staff working in the NHS states: “Gloves must be worn for invasive procedures, contact with sterile sites and non-intact skin or mucous membranes, and all activities that have been assessed as carrying a risk of exposure to blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions; and when handling sharp or contaminated instruments.”1

They should also only be worn once, being changed between patients or between treatment areas on the same patient. For situations where there is a high risk of contamination or infection, NHS Professionals advises wearing two sets of gloves, known as ‘double gloving’. These practices result in a large amount of glove waste that could pose a threat to human health. Therefore, knowing how to dispose of them properly is crucial.

When are gloves considered clinical waste?

NHS advice to professionals in the Standard Infection Control Precautions Guidance1 is that all used single-use gloves worn within the NHS should be disposed of as clinical waste.

Outside of the NHS, any disposable gloves used in medical or similar settings and that come into contact with infectious materials, infectious body fluids, medicines and so on, must be considered clinical waste.

Disposing of gloves as clinical waste

Once a set of gloves has been identified as clinical waste it must be disposed of correctly, to avoid the spread of infection.

The law, as outlined in guidance from the Royal College of Nursing2, says that infectious waste, which includes contaminated gloves, should be disposed of in orange bags or orange-lidded containers,. This waste should then be sent for alternative treatment to render it safe prior to disposal.

Should these gloves contain additional substances such as medicines or chemicals they should be disposed of via the yellow bag waste stream (or yellow lidded container) which ensures they are incinerated.

When disposable gloves are used for administering cyto medicines and procedures (such as chemotherapy) they must be disposed of as cytotoxic or cytostatic waste. Gloves considered as cytotoxic or cytostatic waste must be put into yellow & purple bags or rigid purple-lidded containers. They must then be sent to an authorised facility for incineration.

In situations where used gloves do not present an infection risk and there are no medicines or chemicals present, these are classed as offensive waste rather than clinical. Offensive waste should be disposed of in black & yellow ‘tiger’ bags.

Health Technical Memorandum 07-01 – Safe management of healthcare waste3 provides further details on how to classify and dispose of waste from clinical settings.

More information on clinical waste disposal.

For more advice about whether the gloves you are using could be considered clinical waste and how to dispose of them, contact our team on: 0800 328 3695.