Warning over disposing of expired hand sanitiser

16 August 2023 by CSG

A leading north-west waste management company has urged companies not to dump out-of-date hand sanitiser in the bin or tip the liquid down drains.

Blackburn-based CSG Recovery said hand sanitiser is classed as hazardous waste and must be disposed of responsibly, due to its flammable nature.

Hand sanitiser sales rocketed by 600% in 2020, compared to the previous year, as businesses and organisations stocked up on the product as Covid-19 hit.

With most hand sanitisers expiring in two to three years, Greg Smith, Technical Manager at the speciality waste company, said it has been disposing of thousands of unused bottles over the past few months.

“Businesses and individuals stockpiled enormous amounts of hand sanitiser during the pandemic, but much of this is now past its expiry date and needs to be disposed of, or in CSG’s case recycled,” he explained.

“Due to the complexity of the mixed materials involved, it absolutely cannot be thrown in the bin or poured down the sink. It must be dealt with by specialists – and we have received thousands of bottles over the last year.”

CSG Recovery has to complete a precise process to ensure it disposes of the materials in the most efficient and safe way.

It uses a machine that removes the gel from the packaging, so it can be processed in a more responsible manner, limiting what CSG sends for incineration, increasing recycling rates and making the process as efficient as possible.

It then blends the liquid and works with waste-to-energy recovery centres that convert the heat generated from waste into electricity and heat for homes. The liquid can also be used for SLF, which is typically used at cement plants.

Greg said storing industrial quantities of hand sanitiser, which is a class 3 flammable liquid, creates a fire risk because pure alcohol can ignite at just 13°C – even a sanitiser with a concentration of 70% alcohol can catch fire at 15°C.  

“Commercial or industrial amounts of sanitiser require hazardous waste disposal. If you try and pour large amounts of alcohol-based sanitiser down the drain, once it vaporises it could be enough to blow your local sewer manholes sky high,” he warned.

Part of the CSG Group, CSG Recovery specialises in the processing and recovery of complex or hazardous waste – including aerosols, oily contaminated by-products from industrial customers and clinical and photographic waste – from businesses operating in a range of sectors including healthcare.

Earlier this year, it achieved the landmark milestone of becoming a zero waste to landfill site at its Blackburn depot, on Stanley Street, just three years after it acquired the facility.