Have you ever asked yourself whether waste bins need lids? Look around your facility today as you work, paying special attention to the bins. Do they have lids? If they don’t, should they?

When researching for this blog post, I asked around to see what other people thought. “Of course they should” was the common response, but when I asked where that was written down in policy, people were less confident.

Are lidded bins mandatory?

It goes without saying, waste bins can come in many shapes and sizes and are made from many different materials. In all cases, they should be sturdy and leak-proof, and (except for sharps bins) lined with a sturdy plastic bag. But whether they should have a lid is tricky as there are very few explicit rules, except for the below statement from the World Health Organization.

No matter the setting where the waste bin is in use – whether in the kitchen, the resident’s bedroom, the clinical treatment room, the dirty utility room etc. –  these bins “should have well-fitting lids, either removable by hand, or preferably operated by a foot pedal” ( ‘Safe Management of wastes from health-care activities’ 2nd edition World Health Organization).

Best practice for waste bins in aged care

The bin should be lined with a bag that is the correct colour for the waste that it is intended for. When it comes to clinical type waste bins, these are also colour coded, depending on the type of clinical waste. For example, clinical waste goes into a yellow, lidded waste bin lined with a yellow bag; this is to avoid potential confusion and ensure appropriate segregation of the waste.

Appropriate lidded and lined waste bins should be available in all areas where waste is generated, to allow staff to segregate and dispose of waste at the point of generation. So for instance, static general waste bins, the ones without wheels, should be located as close as possible to sinks and washing facilities. This will facilitate the placement of used paper towel straight into the waste bin.

Now in my mind, it is important to have lidded bins to reduce the risk of possible contaminants on used paper towel, in the case of general waste bins, dispersing onto other nearby surfaces. It is even more important to have lidded, no touch pedal bins for the disposal of clinical waste to protect against possible exposure. Minimal or no touch is always better from an infection control perspective, which makes pedal bins the obvious choice.

All infection prevention and control instincts tell me that waste bins of any description need to have lids, and preferably be foot pedal operated.

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