Technical guidance on healthcare waste management in primary healthcare facilities for low-resource settings

Ritik Chavariya, 19, handles medical waste collection at the Community Health Centre in Sehore District, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Image: WaterAid/Ronny Sen

Ensuring healthcare waste is properly managed is an essential part of water, sanitation and hygiene services in healthcare facilities. Yet many facilities all over the world remain without the adequate equipment or practices to do so. These guidelines provide practical information on implementing safe healthcare waste management services in primary healthcare facilities in low-resource settings.

Adequate healthcare waste management (HCWM) is crucial to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, reduce environmental pollution and protect people's health. Of the total waste generated in health centres, 15% is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, toxic or radioactive. If this waste is not managed properly from generation through to final treatment and disposal healthcare staff, patients, visitors and neighbouring communities are at risk from exposure. 

This guidance provides practical information on ensuring safe, environmentally responsible and compliant HCWM, specifically in primary healthcare facilities in low-resource settings. It is intended to support country programme staff and local partners with:

  • Understanding the different types of healthcare waste and their potential hazards
  • Knowing the regulatory requirements and guidelines for HCWM
  • Complying with environmentally-sound HCWM techniques
  • Planning, designing and implementing appropriate healthcare waste minimisation, segregation, collection, transportation, storage, treatment and disposal
  • Adopting appropriate equipment and practices to reduce environmental and health risks associated with exposure to healthcare waste
  • Applying infection prevention and control measures relating to healthcare waste

The guidance draws on key global standards, guidelines and evidence which have been consolidated for ease of reference.

Top image: Ritik Chavariya, 19, handles medical waste collection at the Community Health Centre in Sehore District, Madhya Pradesh, India.