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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

14 November 2002

Managing Clinical Waste

Embargoed until 10.45 Friday November 15

Have you ever wondered where all the tonnes of disposable nappies end up, or the colostomy bags, sanitary products, plastic tubing, sharps and bandages that are used in households every day?

A lot of it ends up in land-fill in a place near you. There it may join hundreds of kilograms of other material, some of it blood contaminated, or infectious, coming from hospitals, laboratories or veterinary clinics.

It is estimated that clinical waste generated in Australian homes is equal to the volume generated in hospitals today. In part, this problem has been put down to shortcuts from parents, people being released from hospital earlier than before or "ageing in place." There are no guidelines governing the disposal of this waste. Increasingly, workers emptying the contents of women's sanitary product disposal bins located in toilet cubicles find they are mixed with used syringes. Workers fear needle stick injuries as they take this material, to dump in land-fill.

"For too long we have allowed states and territories to have a variety of guidelines governing the definition of what constitutes clinical waste and how it should be collected, stored and disposed of. The time has come for better protection of hygiene workers and the community at large," Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage said.

These and other issues will be discussed at a conference to be held this Friday discussing clinical waste management.

On Friday, Dr Stone, will launch the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Waste Management Industry Group - Code of Practice for the Management of Clinical and Related Wastes. Dr Stone will also give the keynote address during lunch at the inaugural National Clinical Waste Management Conference Compliance and Beyond to be held at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort, Maroochydore, Queensland.

"The conference has been organised to provide guidance to healthcare facilities to improve environmental outcomes and accreditation requirements, in particular respect to waste management," Dr Stone said.

The conference is supported by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS).

The Australian and New Zealand Clinical Waste Management Industry Group (ANZCWMIG), consists of industry representatives who have published the 3rd edition of the "Code of Practice for the Management of Clinical and Related Wastes". This is the standard that is referenced by ACHS, Victoria and NSW WorkCover, and is under consideration by a number of State/Territory environmental and health government agencies.

"This approach by the clinical waste industry is in response to their realisation that poor disposal of clinical waste can be a health hazard and an environmental problem. They aim to raise the operating standards hopefully the first efforts by an industry to raise the standard by which they should be operating, which hopefully will act to other industries," Dr Stone said.

Dr Stone has championed the cause to achieve national uniformity in the regulations and government guidelines for the management transport and disposal of clinical and related wastes.

"The aim of this conference is to look at better ways of managing clinical waste and, most importantly, protecting the environment," Dr Stone said.

For further information please contact Pam Keating on 03 9877 9960 or 0418 397 375.

Media enquiries:
Andrew Cox 5821 5371 Mob: 0408 057 226

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