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Council / Clinical waste from Scottish health boards burned by council

The waste to energy plant in Lerwick. Photo Shetland NewsThe waste to energy plant in Lerwick. Photo Shetland News

CLINICAL waste from health boards across Scotland is now being imported to Shetland for burning in Lerwick’s incinerator in an effort to help ease a national backlog.

Nearly 270 tonnes of low grade NHS waste such as dressings, plastic aprons and used latex gloves from Scottish health boards has been taken into Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) waste to energy plant since mid-December.

The incinerator burns waste to provide hot water for Lerwick’s district heating scheme.

Clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services folded recently with hundreds of workers made redundant after the North Lanarkshire based company lost NHS contracts when it had run up a backlog of waste.

It had been tasked with disposing clinical waste from NHS health boards across Scotland.

SIC officers were aware of the impending national waste problem and successfully applied for a permit variation from environment regulator SEPA to take in ‘orange bag’ clinical waste and increase quantities.

It already accepts clinical waste from the health board in Shetland, as well as Orkney.

In December councillors approved new income charges for the energy recovery plant, including a fee for processing ‘difficult waste’ such as NHS clinical waste, which amounts to nearly £144 per tonne.

Chairman of the SIC’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said taking in the extra waste from other health boards has already generated around £35,000 in new revenue for the council.

“The SIC and NHS Scotland and SEPA have been in discussions and have reached an agreement to dispose of low-risk clinical waste from the NHS sites right across the country as part of a national contingency plan,” he said.

“The total quantity disposed of so far has yielded a gate fee income of around £35,000. The process began around the middle of December.”

A spokesperson for the council added: “The quantity disposed of to date amounts to less than 10 per cent (by weight) of the total waste incinerated, and is ‘orange bag’ waste, consisting of soiled dressings, swabs, disposables, etc.”