Everyday healthcare facilities worldwide operate day and night to make society a healthier place to live in.
They provide treatment, care, and wellness, helping millions of people with different medical solutions. But while healthcare facilities are incredibly essential for humankind, it has a negative aspect as well. And that is medical waste.
So what exactly is medical waste?
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) defines medical waste as “A subset of wastes generated at health care facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories.”
In layman’s terms, medical waste is any potentially infectious material produced from different healthcare facilities, affecting our health.
Since there are different types of medical products, medical waste also varies greatly. However, some of the most common medical wastes include anatomical/pathological waste, bandages, gloves, and other supplies, sharps, microbiological cultures & stocks, OPIMs, Blood products, etc.
According to EPA’s estimate, staffed hospital beds in the US produce around 33lbs of medical waste per day on an average and about 5.9 million tons of waste annually. This is why proper disposal of medical waste is an important issue around the globe and needs to be addressed with priority.
Why is safe and proper disposal of medical waste necessary?
- Medical waste is highly hazardous to health, and indecent exposure can lead to severe health complications. This can be minimized by ensuring that all types of medical wastes are properly disposed of.
- Even improper medical waste treatment & management methods can lead to potential contamination of landfills and water bodies, leading to pollution and hazardous consequences. But using proper treatment methods like incineration can prevent extreme environmental contamination.
- Inadequate medical waste disposal methods can lead to legal consequences as well. Hence, following a safe and proper medical waste disposal system in compliance with OSHA guidelines is essential.
Safe and proper medical waste disposal methods
Collection & separation of medical waste
There are different types of medical wastes, and each needs to be disposed of & treated differently. Hence, collecting & separating the medical waste as per their categories is one of the most effective ways to dispose of medical waste.
Red Bag Disposal
Biohazardous waste like discarded surgical tools & equipment, bandages, gauze, gloves, & gowns, items containing dried blood/fluids, blood-soaked items, cytotoxic waste, pathological waste, and discarded vaccines, among others, are disposed of through red-bag disposal.
Yellow Container Disposal
“RCRA empty” materials are safely disposed of through yellow container disposal. The “RCRA empty” waste materials generally include empty containers of ampules, vials, syringes, needles, empty IV bags, tubing, packaging, used gowns, gloves, aprons, wipes, etc.
Black Container Disposal
Black container disposals are meant for “bulk” waste or RCRA hazardous waste disposal. These types of medical waste commonly include half/partial medication doses, partially used vials, bags, IV tubing, P-listed substances & containers, pathological chemo waste, PPE, and cleaning materials.
Blue Container Disposal
Pharmaceutical waste which is defined as hazardous by the RCRA under P and U lists is collected & disposed of through blue container disposal. These medical wastes include warfarin, nicotine, cyclophosphamide, expired/unused pills, injectables, etc.
Sharps are one of the most common biomedical wastes constituting any object used to lacerate or puncture the skin. Needles & syringes fall under this category and are extremely hazardous as they may contain blood and body fluids.
Being one of the most common medical wastes, sharps come from various healthcare facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, pharmacies, physicians’ offices, and even residences.
They need to be collected in hard plastic containers and properly disposed of. To make sharps disposal safer for both humans & environment, and more efficient, many companies are now manufacturing their own specialized containers. Most of these specially crafted containers look forward to providing an environment-friendly alternative to conventional hard-plastic containers.
Step-by-step process of medical waste treatment
Our first step towards medical waste treatment is collecting & segregating the different varieties of medical waste products into the designated containers.
Once the containers are full with their respective categories of medical waste, our pick-up vehicle picks them up from the healthcare facility to our waste disposal center.
We follow various methods for safe medical waste treatment, including incineration, autoclaving, irradiation, and chemical disinfection, all in compliance with the OSHA guidelines.
The key to safe & proper medical waste disposal is choosing the right products for waste segregation and sticking to the government regulations.
You need to ensure that each type of medical waste is being collected in the specified container and prescribed precautions. For example, if you are using the Daniels Health sharps disposal containers for disposal of all types of hazardous medical wastes instead of only sharps, then it can lead to more health & environmental risks than before.
In order to make sure that you are using the right containers & processes, you can also partner up with a waste management & disposal service provider.