Waste disposal is among the largest challenges confronting medical professionals on a regular basis. Often complicated by other concerns, like HIPAA regulations, epidemiology, potential legal trouble, and state and local requirements, it’s imperative to the success of healthcare providers. At Compactor Management Company, we aim to help medical professionals be excelled as providers, and hence we’re taking a look at the key concepts around medical waste.

What Is Medical Waste?

Medical waste is a type of hazardous waste that can potentially harm individuals, the environment, and public health. It includes medical items such as syringes, bandages, swabs, and instruments used in healthcare settings that are contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids. This type of waste poses a serious risk to individuals who come into contact with it, as well as animals and the environment.

People need to understand what medical waste is to protect themselves and their families from potential contamination. Medical waste should be handled carefully by trained professionals who understand proper protocols for disposal and treatment. Some types of medical waste are considered infectious and require special handling. These materials must be segregated from other forms of trash before disposal. Properly disposing of medical waste helps prevent the spread of disease or infection, while protecting both human health and the environment alike.

Who Regulates Medical Waste?

State environment and health departments are primarily in charge of medical waste regulation. Since the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 expired in 1991, the EPA has lacked authority, especially when it comes to medical waste. Therefore, contacting your state’s environmental program is critical when disposing of medical waste. For additional information on your state’s medical waste regulations, contact your state environmental protection agency and your state health department.

Several federal agencies regulate medical waste. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and potentially others are among these organizations.

What Are the Types of Medical Waste?

Knowing what types of medical waste are out there is essential to ensuring proper disposal and handling methods of this sometimes dangerous material. There are eight categories of medical waste, and they are classified as:

  1. Sharps

    Sharps, are items such as needles, blades, broken glass, razors, and other objects that are used to puncture or cut skin and can transmit disease if not handled properly. Sharps can be found in many healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, laboratories, and even at home when needles are being used for self-administered treatments.

  2. Infectious Waste

    The infectious medical waste consists of any materials that have been contaminated by blood or bodily fluids from an infected patient. This includes things like swabs, tissues, excreta, equipment, lab cultures and other items used in healthcare environments.

  3. Radioactive

    In most cases, this waste consists of unused radiation liquid or lab research liquid. It could also include any glassware or other materials that have been contaminated with this liquid.

  4. Pathological

    Pathological wastes are tissues removed from patients during surgery or biopsies that must be disposed of properly in order to prevent the spread of infection.

  5. Pharmaceuticals

    Pharmaceutical wastes include expired or unused medications and containers for hazardous drugs like chemotherapy drugs.

  6. Chemical

    Chemical waste includes disinfectants, laboratory solvents, batteries, and heavy metals from medical equipment, such as mercury from damaged thermometers.

  7. Genotoxic Waste

    Genotoxic wastes contain mutagens or carcinogens that may cause genetic mutations or cancer if they enter into contact with living organisms; these can include biological agents such as viruses or bacteria as well as pharmaceuticals like antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs.

  8. General Non-Regulated Medical Waste

    This form of waste is also non-hazardous and poses no specific chemical, biological, physical, or radioactive risk.

How to Dispose of Medical Waste?

  1. Autoclaving

    Autoclaving, or steam sterilization, is one of the most popular methods for disposing of medical waste in a safe and effective manner. Autoclaving involves placing medical waste into an autoclave machine, where it is heated to temperatures ranging from 120-135 degrees Celsius with pressures reaching 15 psi (pounds per square inch). This process kills any harmful bacteria or organisms that may be present on the waste material and renders it safe for disposal.

    Autoclaving can be used to treat many types of medical waste, including syringes, gloves, masks, lab coats, bandages, and even body fluids such as blood and urine. It is important to note that autoclave machines should only be operated by trained personnel who understand how to use them safely and correctly.

  2. Chemical Disinfection

    Chemical disinfection is one method that can be used to dispose of medical waste safely. This process involves using chemical solutions to kill any bacteria or other microorganisms on the medical waste. It also helps neutralize any potentially hazardous materials contained within the waste.

    This process usually requires mixing the chemical with water before it’s applied directly to medical waste. The most commonly used chemicals include quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine-releasing agents, and hydrogen peroxide-based products. Each type has guidelines for safe usage that must be strictly followed to sanitize medical waste effectively.

  3. Microwaving

    When you are using microwaving for your waste disposal, the waste is shredded, combined with water, and then internally heated to kill bacteria and other dangerous materials throughout the process. The shredding component of this technique is one of its key advantages; it reduces the volume of biological waste and is allegedly more energy efficient than incineration. While it cannot be used for all biomedical wastes, it can be used for 90% of them, similar to autoclaving.

  4. Incineration

    Incineration is one of the most effective ways to dispose of medical waste. The process involves burning contaminated materials in a specially designed incinerator, which reduces hazardous items into ash and smoke. Incineration has become a popular choice for disposing of medical waste because it eliminates all biological risks associated with these dangerous materials, such as bacteria and viruses. This method also destroys any materials that could be harmful or difficult to treat using other methods, such as autoclaving or chemical disinfection.

Where to Dispose of Medical Waste?

  1. Drop-Off Sites

    One of the most important components of proper medical waste disposal is finding suitable drop-off sites. Medical waste requires special handling, storage, and transportation in order to ensure the health and safety of all individuals who come into contact with it. In addition, many local drop-off sites around the country will accept medical waste for proper disposal.

    Many hospitals provide their own medical waste drop-off sites, but there are also several independent companies that offer this service for a fee. These companies often have multiple locations across a wide geographic area, making them ideal for those needing to dispose of large amounts of medical waste in a timely manner. Private companies also typically provide more specialized services, such as onsite sorting and shredding, making them an even more convenient option for disposing of hazardous materials quickly and safely.

  2. Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities

    Treatment, storage, and disposal facilities are the best places to dispose of medical waste because they provide the most secure way to make sure that hazardous materials do not end up in landfills or bodies of water. In addition, these facilities offer specialized treatment processes designed to eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria or viruses contained within the medical waste.

    Treatment, storage, and disposal facilities typically use incineration as their primary method for handling medical waste. In addition, many of these facilities also have autoclaves—devices used to sterilize objects by exposing them to high temperatures under pressure—which can be used on medical instruments and supplies before they go out into the public again.

  3. Landfills or Incinerators

    Today, landfills or incineration is one of the most commonly used techniques for eliminating medical waste, including pathological waste and pharmaceutical waste. Your medical waste may also be sent to a landfill if it has been sterilized or chemically cleaned. Many medical landfills have defenses in place to prevent waste from leaching into the surrounding soil. Landfills can be designed with liners, leachate-collection systems, caps, and increased monitoring of methane levels in groundwater.

  4. Medical Waste Recycling Facilities

    Medical waste recycling facilities use specialized processes to separate out materials like metals, plastics, and even biohazards for proper treatment or disposal. The facility will also make sure that any hazardous chemicals used for treatment are handled correctly and that all safety protocols are followed during the recycling process. Not only does this reduce the amount of material being sent to landfills, but it can also help keep communities safe from exposure to hazardous materials.