WA's Health Department is facing calls to change a policy that allows clinical waste from hospitals, vets and tattoo parlours to be dumped in regional landfills amid fears it could be a health risk.
One of Australia's biggest waste groups, SITA, has raised concerns with the department that the waste, which can include drugs and human and animal tissue, could leach into groundwater and potentially spread infectious disease.
Clinical waste is treated differently outside the Perth metropolitan area because regional areas do not have the facilities to have the waste incinerated or sterilised in an autoclave.
The waste group wants to be paid to transport clinical waste from regional areas to the metropolitan area, as is done in some other Australian cities.
The company's WA general manager, Nial Stock, said an increase in the volume of clinical waste going into landfill, a lack of protective lining in some landfills and more resistant strains of infectious disease warranted legitimate health concerns.
"Greater numbers of people living in remote and regional areas of WA has led to higher volumes of clinical waste being generated in these locations," he said. "(This) coincides with media coverage of more resistant strains of infectious disease which may be expected to be a bigger risk to health in hot and or humid regions.
"Clearly, the cost of transporting it back to Perth would be higher than the current cost of landfilling it locally. However, price should not be the main consideration when there are important public health concerns."
SITA, which runs one WA landfill and recently applied to develop another in York, raised its concerns with the department last year and again last month.
A department spokeswoman said SITA was the only landfill owner or operator to have raised health concerns about the issue.
SITA will write to acting director-general David Russell-Weisz requesting a policy review.