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April 2022

How to responsibly dispose of adult diapers at your medical facility

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Medical Waste and Waste Disposal

This blog takes a look at responsible nappy disposal at your medical facility - and how can ensure you are being both legally compliant and environmentally responsible when disposing of adult nappy and incontinence waste.

Urinary incontinence is an important and common health care problem affecting the elderly population. According to a government report by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) more than 50% of older Americans struggle with incontinence. But it's not just a problem related to the elderly: it is estimated that around 423 million people worldwide suffer from incontinence.

The number of adult diapers and incontinence products that are needed in an average day by adults or the elderly will depend on a number of factors but can vary from 4 full changes down to changing two pads and the full diaper.

Factors such as:

  • Amount of fluid consumed that day
  • The type of fluid can make a difference (caffeine and spicy drinks can cause the kidneys to filter more out of the body)
  • Spicy foods can irritate the bladder forcing out more urine
  • Some foods/drinks can cause a bad reaction (diarrhoea)
  • The quality of the diapers and pads...

...will all affect the number of adult diapers that need to be disposed of every day.  Premium diapers have better construction, multiple barriers, leg and waist elastic bands, unidirectional wicking to prevent moisture contact, fast absorption, and a large capacity, but not everyone in elderly care facilities or healthcare settings can afford state of the art incontinence solutions.

Whatever type of AHP (Absorbent Hygiene Product*) is being used, multiply this by the number of people using adult diapers in your medical or elder care facility, and you can see how the AHP waste will very quickly start to pile up.

*AHP waste is the name for all waste emanating from the use of baby nappies, feminine care products (tampons, pads and panty liners) and adult incontinence products.

The percentage of men and women worldwide affected by incontinence

How to dispose of adult nappies and incontinence products

What do you do with them all? Do you know whether you are disposing of incontinence waste safely and correctly?  

If you run a healthcare business, then any AHP waste generated at your site is classified under the current NEMWA regulations as infectious or medical waste, and the handling, transport and disposal must be compliant with SANS 10248:2008.

We have written about medical waste extensively on our blog, discussing the various pieces of legislation that affect the disposal of medical waste, but here are the most common questions we get asked by our customers:   

  • Are nappies and other AHP waste considered to be medical waste/healthcare risk waste (HCRW)?
    If the nappies, incontinence pads or any other AHP waste result from a person receiving treatment for infectious diseases it must be segregated and managed as HCRW. 
    This means that any incontinence pads and adult diapers generated at a healthcare facility are automatically deemed to be medical waste and need to be treated in the same way as soft clinical waste. 
  • Must nappies and other AHP waste emanating from healthcare facilities be treated prior to disposal?
    Yes. Because AHP waste generated by a healthcare facility is automatically deemed to be HCRW it must be treated at an approved facility either by incineration or non-combustion treatment technologies prior to disposal.
  • What defines a healthcare facility?

    Health facilities are places that provide health care. They include hospitals, clinics, outpatient care centres, and specialised care centres, such as birthing centres and psychiatric care centres.

Various pieces of legislation define the correct and proper management of all of the healthcare waste described above (including AHP's generated at a healthcare facility) and this includes separation and storage.

Correct separation and storage of healthcare risk waste is a critical part of the disposal process and means having different bespoke (colour-coded), compliant and sealed receptacles for different waste streams.

These receptacle units should be regularly exchanged with stringently cleaned replacements and should be both impenetrable and seepage-proof, with a self-locking closure, in order to minimise the risk of needlestick injury, contamination or infection.

Initial has a selection of modern, high-capacity nappy bins which are collected on a frequency determined by the size of your business. Nappy waste from healthcare providers is disposed of in accordance with the regulations for medical waste.

Making life better for incontinence sufferers with Initial Hygiene


You will need to find a reputable provider to do your disposal (Read our blog on 4 Important questions you should ask your medical waste contractor) and who can evaluate the type of healthcare risk waste that your business produces and then provide you with a tailor-made solution, which includes ‘cradle to grave” waste tracking. 

The Waste Tracking Document is a legal document that tracks who generated the waste, how much and what type of waste is being handled, and when and by whom the waste was treated and then disposed of.

This paper trail – the signing and dating of documents - is critical to the reliable recording of the “cradle to grave” management of Healthcare risk waste, and to put your mind at ease that waste is being treated and disposed of in the correct manner, at the correct sites.  

Initial is a registered waste carrier and can therefore offer a safe and hygienic nappy and incontinence waste service to ensure that incontinence waste from your healthcare facility is disposed of in accordance with legislative guidelines.

This means that they are treated before disposal, and are disposed of in Class B Hazardous sites which are not accessible to waste pickers, and are fully contained to prevent contamination of groundwater. 

Download our free adult nappy posters for your healthcare facility. Or contact us to find out more about our nappy waste disposal services.

Download Nappy Posters

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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