Clinical waste at the crossroads

October will be a watershed for clinical waste management in Britain. Most existing hospital incinerators are due to close down rather than be upgraded to new plant emission standards. But many National Health Trusts still have no long-term strategy for disposing of their wastes - and in the absence of accurate data on waste arisings it is unclear whether Britain will be left with a surplus or a shortfall of disposal capacity. Some regions of England and Wales will have to send waste long distances to be burned in the new breed of merchant incinerators. And some Scottish health authorities, faced with an acute shortfall in disposal capacity, are planning to send large quantities of waste to the Dundee municipal incinerator - despite doubts over the plant's future and its poor environmental performance.

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