Continuing Initial Medical’s series of blogs discussing the colour coding system for waste segregation management and disposal, we consider the colour blue…
A primary colour, blue is often connected with feelings of trust, dignity, authority and intelligence while also stimulating clear thought, productivity and efficiency. Different shades of blue are associated with cleanliness, strength, dependability, peace, spirituality and loyalty. A blue sky signifies a good day and happiness, the blue ocean conjures feelings of serenity and calm and a western bride will traditionally wear something blue on her wedding day to symbolise love.
Blue is widely attributed as the most common favourite colour of people around the world. Approximately 53% of all national flags contain the colour blue and it is believed to be the most commonly used colour for corporate identities.
Around the world, Greeks believe the colour will ward off ‘evil’; the Hindu God Krishna has blue skin; and in Eastern cultures blue symbolises immortality. Some sources suggest that early use of blue paint, which was made by crushing the Lapis Lazuli jewel, was so highly prized that laws existed to govern what artists were allowed to paint blue – Jesus and Mary’s robes were usually the only accepted uses of the precious colour.
In contrast, blue is sometimes associated with depression – ‘feeling blue’ may have originated in the US for those feeling down, but it is now a widely used phrase. Blue is also the colour of mourning in Korea.
For professionals operating in a variety of industries, blue is the colour of a specific clinical waste stream as well. In line with the colour coding system set out by the Department of Health Safe Management of Healthcare Waste Memorandum, any non-hazardous medicinal waste should be segregated and disposed of into blue pharmaceutical containers.
In this colour category we have all waste pharmaceuticals and out of date or denatured drugs or medicines. These might include:
- Tablets in containers
- Blister packs
- Unopened medicine vials
- Liquids in bottles
- Inhaler cartridges
- Droplet bottles with pipettes
The nature of these items means such waste is most commonly produced by GP practices, hospitals, care homes and pharmacists, but other companies or organisations may also generate some. With the potential for liquids or medicines to leak if unfinished or out of date, it is essential that all blue waste is disposed of into securely fastened, rigid bins, where any spillages will be safely contained.
The risks posed by this category of waste will vary depending on their source and original intended use, but as long as they are handled and disposed of correctly, the risks are usually fairly low for professionals.
To maximise safety and compliance, there are several important points to note when disposing of blue medicinal waste. For example, any controlled drugs must be denatured using a specially designed controlled drug denaturing kit and the entire waste container should be placed into a blue pharmaceutical container for onwards disposal. All medicines should be kept in their original packaging when placed into a waste container – this facilitates easy identification of waste contents should there be an issue or accident and it prevents any of the substances from reacting with each other. In addition, waste must be segregated according to its state, therefore separating liquid and hard waste into different containers.
To optimise efficiency, thought should be given to the size and type of containers used. For example, Initial Medical offers small sharps containers or large rigid containers suitable for different volumes of blue waste. For cost-effectiveness and a more environmentally friendly solution, rigid cardboard containers are also available, but these are not suitable for liquid or glass waste.
Once the waste containers are full, it is essential to ensure they are properly closed to avoid spillages – rigid and sharps containers from Initial Medical feature sure locking systems with permanent hermetic seals to ensure they are securely shut. All the relevant details must then be marked and clearly visible on the containers, which then need to be safely stored in the designated area to await collection by the licenced contractor.
Most establishments will store all their clinical waste in a private area not accessible to patients or customers. Separate storage rooms, basements or lockable cupboards are all suitable, but consideration should be given to the temperature and other conditions of these areas. Where the temperature is slightly higher, whether due to the specific area or the season, it’s important to arrange collection within the appropriate time frame. Other possible features might include a water supply for cleaning purposes, protection from direct sunlight, at least passive ventilation and a local supply of protective clothing and equipment for staff handling the waste.
Due to the possible mixture of different chemicals, medicines and drugs, all waste colour coded blue is disposed of by incineration.
For more information on what items should be coded blue, or for any advice on storage facilities and requirements, contact Initial Medical today.
Initial Medical is a division of Rentokil Initial plc.