Basildon Hospital is under investigation for failing to properly dispose of potentially hazardous medical waste, including used syringes.
Environmental watchdogs are probing how syringes and other equipment used to drain bodily fluids from patients, as well as other used medical supplies, made it into the general waste.
Used equipment has to be disposed of separately, with syringes being taken for incineration, due to the risk they pose of spreading disease or infecting anyone who might handle them, with HIV or Hepatitis.
Veolia Environmental Services, which removes the hospital’s general waste, discovered used equipment was being thrown out with the rubbish this month.
An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “Regulations are designed to ensure different wastes are dealt with in appropriate ways to protect the environment and human health.
“We are investigating the destination of waste from the hospital.”
A Veolia whistleblower said: “The hospital failed to spot dangerous contaminants in clear rubbish bags and failed to check before decanting it into a large loader.
“The cost to the company is such that the hospital have agreed to send staff to the depot to sort out the mess.”
He said syringes have contaminated other businesses’ waste at Veolia’s depot in Archers Fields, on Burnt Mills Industrial Estate, Basildon, and claimed it had happened before.
Ten staff from the hospital are being sent to the depot to help retrieve the equipment, so it can be properly disposed of.
A hospital spokeswoman said: “When Veolia contacted us, we immediately launched a serious incident investigation. Our waste manager, along with up to nine other members of staff from our facilities team, will be working in partnership with Veolia to sort the problem out. Normally, sharps are incinerated via a separate contractor.
“The different types of products we use at the hospital must be disposed of correctly, so there are different types of waste bins across the hospital site.
“Since these mistakes came to light, we immediately began carrying out extra visual checks and are in the process of retraining all staff on correct waste disposal.”
A Veolia spokesman said: “This waste was quickly identified and is now being held in a segregated area of the site, where it will be handled with the assistance of the NHS waste team and with the agreement of the Environment Agency, separated and disposed of in line with normal procedures.
“We take all environmental, health and safety matters extremely seriously and have worked closely with the hospital and Environment Agency.”