General practice tool kit

Your practice premises

Waste management

Last revised: 24 Oct 2019

Categories of waste  management

Waste in medical practices falls into one of these four categories:

  • general
  • clinical
  • pharmaceutical
  • digital.

Your waste must be correctly sorted and segregated before being disposed of.

Infection control is paramount. Clinical waste must be placed into yellow biohazard bags and disposed of according to relevant state and territory legislation and regulations. Review your state or territory’s environmental legislation here.

Because medical practices frequently generate large amounts of waste, aim to reduce your practice’s waste as much as possible, and include your waste reduction goals in your business plan.

RACGP Standards

Criterion GP4.1 – Infection prevention and control, including sterilisation

GP4.1 A Our practice has at least one clinical team member who has primary responsibility for:

  • coordinating prevention and control of infection
  • coordinating the provision of an adequate range of sterile equipment (reprocessed or disposable)
  • where relevant, having procedures for reprocessing (sterilising) instruments onsite or offsite, and ensuring there is documented evidence that this reprocessing is monitored and has been validated
  • safe storage and stock rotation of sterile products
  • waste management.

GP4.1 B Our practice has a written, practice-specific policy that outlines our infection control processes.

GP4.1 C Our practice has a clinical team member who has primary responsibility for educating the practice team

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If your premises store oxygen and liquid nitrogen, or any other product classed as hazardous, obtain the safety data sheets (SDSs) from the supplier and follow their protective measures and safety precautions meticulously.
Management and disposal of dangerous goods must comply with the dangerous goods and environmental legislation of your state or territory. Individuals, company directors and businesses who fail to comply to their legislative obligations may incur severe penalties.

RACGP Standards

GP3.1 C Our clinical team is trained to use the practice’s equipment that they need to properly perform their role.

GP3.1 D Our clinical team is aware of the potential risks associated with the equipment they use.

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Sharps containers must be:

  • located as close as possible to where the sharps are used (eg in consulting rooms)
  • out of reach of children
  • disposed of by an approved waste disposal firm (this is both a legislative and accreditation requirement).

RACGP Standards

GP4.1 D All members of our practice team manage risks of potential cross-infection in our practice by methods that include: safe storage and disposal of clinical waste including sharps

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Cleaners are obliged to sign privacy agreements.

RACGP Standards

Criterion GP5.1 – Practice facilities

GP5.1 F Our practice is visibly clean

Criterion GP4.1 – Infection prevention and control, including sterilisation

GP4.1 A Our practice has at least one clinical team member who has primary responsibility for:

  • waste management.

GP4.1 B Our practice has a written, practice-specific policy that outlines our infection control processes

View the standards >

E-waste refers to discarded electrical and electronic technologies, such as computers, laptops and tablets, printers and smart phones, whether or not they are in working order.

Because technology companies frequently release new products that are faster and offer increased functionality, you might equally frequently renew or upgrade your practice’s technology, and therefore generate a lot of e-waste. To reduce your environment impact:

  • carefully assess whether you need to purchase the latest release
  • identify appropriate ways of recycling and disposing of outdated electronic equipment (eg you could donate computers and phones and use companies that recycle components)

Protecting privacy

When recycling or disposing of technology, you must be diligent about protecting personal and health information by removing all patient and staff data. You will probably want to all confidential information about the practice (eg financial records, business plans) to be removed as well. Because ‘deleting’ information does not destroy it, and people with the right skills can still access the information, you should engage a company that specialises in destroying data.

This event attracts CPD points and can be self recorded

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