Sanitary waste collection

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Compare sanitary waste solutions

Compare sanitary waste collection quotes from local providers to ensure you get the service you need, including the appropriate bins, at the lowest cost possible. This guarantees:

<h3>Regulatory compliance</h3>

Regulatory compliance

Signing a contract with one of our vetted waste collection providers will help you comply with the workplace, water, and waste regulations that mandate sanitary waste disposal.

<h3>Hygene, health and safety</h3>

Hygene, health and safety

This service is essential to keep your restrooms hygienic, convenient and pleasant. Employees appreciate having the necessary disposal bins at hand.

<h3>Environment and sewerage</h3>

Environment and sewerage

It ensures that your sanitary waste ends up appropriately landfilled or incinerated and not blocking your plumbing or littering the streets.

What is sanitary waste?

Sanitary waste is a type of “offensive waste” composed of any item contaminated with non-infectious bodily fluids or excreta, such as sanitary napkins, soiled tissues and used condoms.

Offensive waste may be unpleasant and ‘offend’ those who come into contact with it, but it is very unlikely to be a transmitter of pathogens.

Most commercial sanitary waste is generated and disposed of in restrooms and bathrooms of commercial or public establishments, and healthcare settings such as clinics, nurse offices, etc.

Domestic sanitary waste is generated in household bathrooms and toilets and is subject to less stringent regulations.

💡 Sanitary waste is not considered hazardous or biohazardous because it is non-infectious but requires careful handling and disposal.

Domestic vs business sanitary waste

There is no difference in what is considered ‘sanitary waste’ in households versus commercial establishments. The difference lies in the legal requirements for bins and waste disposal.

Homes: Most homes keep a bin in their bathrooms and toilets as it is culturally considered a common courtesy for those who need it. The sanitary waste collected there is typically disposed of in general domestic waste.

Businesses: Workplace regulations mandate that female and unisex toilets have a sanitary bin. Additionally, sanitary waste must be segregated from other waste streams and collected separately by a commercial waste collection provider.

How much sanitary waste is generated in the UK?

Approximately 200,000 tonnes of sanitary waste are generated annually by households, businesses and public institutions. Of this, around 90% is sent to landfill, and the remaining 10%, or about 20,000 tonnes, is sent to one of the UK’s 55 incinerators

Our experts estimate that this corresponds to roughly 11 billion sanitary waste items being disposed of annually.

What businesses need sanitary bins?

Workplace regulations mandate that ALL business premises have sanitary bins in female and unisex toilets, with no exceptions. Here are some examples:

<h3>Small offices</h3>

Small offices

Even if an office is shared by very few male employees, the toilet facilities must provide the appropriate sanitary bins for any female visitors.



Both private bathrooms within hotel rooms and toilets in public facilities should provide sanitary bins.



Even if the law doesn’t require it, all toilets, including men’s, should have sanitary bins. Automatic, non-pedal sanitary bins should be considered for disabled toilets.

What can you put in sanitary bins?

Sanitary bins are designed to collect and dispose of various types of sanitary waste safely. Items that can be placed in sanitary bins include:

  • Used sanitary napkins and tampons
  • Incontinence pads
  • Baby nappies
  • Colostomy and urostomy bags
  • Non-infectious medical dressings and bandages
  • Disposable gloves and masks contaminated with bodily fluids
  • Condoms
  • Soiled tissues and wipes

What should NOT go in sanitary bins?

While it may seem intuitive to dispose of these items in sanitary bins, they must be disposed of safely with other waste streams, such as clinical or hazardous wastes:

  • Used syringes and needles
  • Blood bags
  • Gauze or bandages soaked with blood
  • Used PPE contaminated with infectious fluids
  • IV bags and tubing with blood residue
  • Bloody wet wipes
  • Tissue or organ samples
  • Chemically contaminated dressings
  • Pharmaceutical waste
  • Soiled paper towels were contaminated with blood

The importance of correct sanitary waste disposal

No business would ever want to be in a position where:

  • Staff goes public in local media about a lack of sanitary facilities in its premises’ toilets.
  • They’re fined thousands of pounds from environmental authorities for non-compliance.
  • Their sanitary waste is littering a pristine beach in Turkey because of illegal waste exports.

Here’s exactly why it’s so important to manage sanitary waste appropriately:

Health and Safety

While sanitary waste is classified as “offensive waste” due to its non-infectious nature, it can still harbour harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that can even thrive in landfills. Proper disposal minimises the risk of exposure and maintains hygiene, protecting the health of employees and the public.

Regulatory compliance

Workplace regulations require the installation of bins in female and unisex toilets. Water regulations prohibit sanitary waste disposal by flushing it down the toilet. Waste regulations require businesses to appropriately segregate, store, and arrange for the collection of this sanitary waste.

Environmental protection

Correct disposal practices prevent sanitary waste from contaminating the environment. By segregating and arranging for its separate collection, the risk of pollution is reduced, promoting sustainable waste management practices.

Public Hygiene

Maintaining clean and odour-free restrooms and facilities is crucial for public hygiene. Proper sanitary waste disposal prevents unpleasant odours and reduces the risk of pest infestations, ensuring a pleasant and safe environment.

Saving Money

Effective sanitary waste management may reduce landfill tax obligations and avoid fines associated with improper disposal in the general waste stream. Proactively comparing commercial waste collection quotes will help your businesses secure a better deal, avoiding the need for expensive last-minute arrangements.

Employee satisfaction

Gender issues have become an important discussion in today’s media, largely because of untackled stigmas around sanitary waste for all genders. For example, the law doesn’t require sanitary bins in men’s toilets, despite items like incontinence pads, colostomy or catheter by-products being generated. Taking the initiative of going beyond the law will be welcomed by your workforce for accommodating minorities and being gender-unbiased.

Types of sanitary bins

Sanitary bins in female and unisex toilets at the workplace of public space is a legal requirement. Placing them in men’s toilets is not required for compliance but is preferable to accommodate for minorities.

Bin designs and sizes can cater to different needs and settings. Lets begin with size, there are small, medium and large bins:

<h3>Small Bins</h3>

Small Bins

Typically around 5-10 litres, these bins are ideal for individual stalls in smaller restrooms or low-traffic areas.

<h3>Medium Bins</h3>

Medium Bins

Medium-sized bins, ranging from 15-20 litres, are suitable for most commercial restrooms, balancing capacity and space efficiency.

<h3>Large bins</h3>

Large bins

Large bins 20 litres and above are designed to store the aggregate of smaller bins (pending collection from waste carriers) or for high-traffic areas such as large public toilets.

Sanitary bin designs

Here are a few designs to cater to different people:

<h3>Standard (pedal-operated) bins</h3>

Standard (pedal-operated) bins

The most typical sanitary bin of restrooms across the UK. It typically has a pedal-operated lid to increase hygiene.

Picture Source: Washroom Hub

<h3>Automatic lid (sensor) bins</h3>

Automatic lid (sensor) bins

Instead of being pedal-operated, these bins feature sensors that automatically open the lid when approached, providing a touch-free disposal option. This is preferred in disabled toilets where pedals may not be practical. 

Picture source: Washroom Hub

<h3>Disposable bins</h3>

Disposable bins

Single-use containers are made from disposable materials and are ideal for temporary setups, such as fairs and festivals. 

Picture source: Washroom Hub

<h3>Sanitary bags</h3>

Sanitary bags

Portable bags can be used to temporarily and discreetly store personal sanitary waste in the absence of appropriate bins. 

Picture source: Washroom Hub

What happens to sanitary waste after collection?

After your waste carriers collect your commercial sanitary waste, taking all necessary precautions, they will transport it into a landfill or incineration (energy recovery), depending on what facilities are available locally and who they contract with.

Your carrier will provide you with a waste transfer note to demonstrate your compliant disposal of the sanitary waste.

💡 Devolved policies urge that sanitary waste be segregated for collection to encourage its sending to waste-to-energy facilities. This is a great way of ensuring the elimination of pathogens, and the carbon-based, plastic-textile-paper composition of sanitary items is optimal for combustion.

Can sanitary waste be recycled?

Sanitary waste is considered difficult to recycle because it is both “offensive” and a composite of various materials, including plastics, latex, textiles, and paper. Separating these components individually is resource-intensive and would require unhygienic exposure to the waste.

Emerging recycling technologies and Extended Producer Responsibility will certainly enhance the recyclability potential of sanitary wastes in the UK, but they are likely not as high on the priority list as electronics battery recycling (black mass).

Sanitary waste regulations

Sanitary waste is bound by more than just the UK waste regulations and their respective devolved policies. Sanitary waste, especially the segment that typically arises in women’s and unisex restrooms, has long been underserved in the workplace and public spaces. Until regulations were implemented, people had no choice but to flush it down the toilet, to the detriment of the UK sewage network.

This complex interplay between social, hygiene, water and sanitation makes sanitary waste a cross-regulatory problem. Here are the regulations that apply:

RegulationKey Provisions
Waste RegulationsBusinesses and institutions have a responsibility for managing their waste, including sanitary waste, and must follow the waste hierarchy when managing it. Non-compliance can lead to fines or jail time.
Workplace RegulationsAll organisations must provide sanitary waste disposal in women’s and unisex restrooms to ensure hygienic disposal of sanitary products.
Water Industry RegulationsProhibits the flushing down of sanitary waste to prevent plumbing issues and environmental contamination.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)Requires the safe handling of sanitary waste contaminated with substances like bodily fluids and solids that can pose health hazards.

Environmental impact of sanitary waste disposal

Unfortunately, there are always isolated cases of mismanaged sanitary waste in the UK that ends up having noticeable environmental impacts:

Non-biodegradable litter

Sanitary waste that is not appropriately stored and awaiting collection can potentially end up littering the streets, waterways and countryside. Most sanitary products contain plastics and other non-biodegradable materials that may remain in the natural environment for hundreds of years.

Sewage blocking

When sanitary waste is flushed down the toilet, it typically combines with other persistent substances like cooking oil waste to produce plumbing blockages. This can lead to sewage water floods within premises or in the public arena that may contain pathogens and toxins to harm humans and the environment, not to mention their unpleasantness.

Carbon Emissions and use of resources

As many as 11 billion sanitary items are used in the UK every year, most of which will need disposing after usage. Disposal involved buying it in landfills or incinerating them, both of which have associated carbon emissions.

Sanitary waste – FAQs

Our business waste experts answer commonly asked questions on waste cooking oil disposal in the UK.

How often should sanitary waste bins be emptied?

Sanitary waste bins should be emptied regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent odors. The frequency depends on the volume of waste generated and the size of the bins. In high-traffic areas of your business or institution, bins need emptying on a daily basis, while in lower-traffic areas, weekly or bi-weekly servicing might be sufficient. The bins should also be cleaned and disinfected periodically.

How can businesses ensure compliance with sanitary waste regulations?

Businesses can ensure compliance by installing sanitary bins in all restrooms, ensuring the waste remains separate from other streams, scheduling regular collection with licensed waste disposal companies, and maintaining disposal records, which must be kept for at least 2 years.

Can I flush tampons or incontinence pads down the toilet?

No, tampons and incontinence pads should not be flushed as they can cause sewer blockages. Dispose of them in designated sanitary bins.

Are soiled paper towels considered sanitary waste?

Paper towels used to dry hands in washrooms are not considered sanitary waste because they are unlikely to contain bodily fluids. Depending on local recycling facilities, they are typically classified as general waste or recyclable waste.

However, if these paper towels become contaminated, they should be treated as sanitary or other waste types, depending on the substance.

Sanitary waste vs clinical waste

It’s impossible to escape the fact that sanitary waste can also contain pathogens from menstrual blood or faeces. However, risk levels and volumes differ, making them subject to different regulatory requirements.

Due to the absence of sharps, typically lower concentrations of bodily fluids and ubiquity in virtually all establishments, sanitary waste is considered “non-infectious” under UK regulations and categorised as “offensive waste” instead.

In contrast, clinical waste is typically constrained to healthcare establishments and consists of items like needles and gauze soaked with blood that are much more likely to be infectious or hazardous. As a result, it is subject to the most stringent disposal requirements.