Medical waste can be harmful and aid in the spread of infectious diseases. In order to protect patients and employees, medical waste needs to be properly disposed.
Watch the video below or read the following transcript for a guide on proper medical waste disposal.
What Is Medical Waste
Medical waste is generally defined as any potentially infectious material produced at health care facilities like hospitals and physical offices.
Common types of medical waste include:
- Anatomical/Pathological waste
- Bandages, gloves, and other supplies
- Microbiological cultures and stocks
- Blood products
Reasons to Prioritize Proper Medical Waste Disposal
- Legal – Maintaining compliance with OSHA guidelines for how to manage and dispose medical waste helps to reduce legal liabilities.
- Health – Properly collecting and disposing waste helps to minimize potential infection risks from contaminated materials.
- Environment – Using proper treatment methods like incineration helps to keep hazardous medical waste out of landfills and oceans.
Medical Waste by the Numbers
On average staffed hospital beds produce 33 lbs of waste per day, meaning 5.9 million tons of waste is generated in the U.S. each year.
Collect and Separate Medical Waste
There are a range of medical waste types like sharps and pharmaceuticals, and since each is treated and disposed differently they also need to be separated and collected in different containers.
Sharps are one of the most common types of medical waste as they are used in numerous places for a variety of reasons.
Sharps need to be separated and disposed in an individual container at facilities like:
- Urgent Care Facilities
- Rehabilitation Facilities
- Residential Homes
- Nursing Homes
- Physician Offices
Red bag disposal is designated specifically for biohazardous waste (also known as potentially infectious waste).
Medical waste designated for red bag disposal includes:
- Discarded surgical tools and equipment
- Bandages, gauze, gloves, and gowns
- Items with dried blood and fluids
- Blood soaked items
- Cytotoxic waste
- Pathological waste
- Discarded vaccines
Yellow waste containers are used for trace chemotherapeutic waste that’s considered “RCRA empty” according to the EPA standard.
“RCRA empty” means that the materials are empty and have less than 3% of their original volume remaining. This typically includes:
- Empty ampules and vials
- Empty syringes and needles
- Empty IV bags and tubing
- Gowns, gloves, and aprons
- Used wipes and packaging
While yellow is used for trace chemo waste, black containers are designated for chemotherapeutic waste that’s not “RCRA empty.”
Also called “bulk” waste, common types of RCRA hazardous waste include:
- Half/partial medication doses
- Partially used vials, bags, and IV tubing
- P-listed substances and containers
- Pathological chemo waste
- PPE and cleaning materials
Blue containers are used to collect pharmaceutical waste that’s defined as hazardous by the RCRA.
Types of hazardous pharmaceutical waste are defined by the RCRA’s P and U lists, and include drugs such as:
- Bulk powders
- Expired/unused pills and injectables
How Waste Treatment Works
Once bins are full each waste type needs to be destroyed and disposed of differently using various treatment methods like incineration, irradiation, and autoclaving.
Medical Waste Treatment Steps
- Prior to treatment different types of medical waste are segregated and collected in separate containers.
- Once containers are full, they’re picked up and transported to a treatment facility.
- Medical waste types are treated in compliance with OSHA using various methods including incineration, irradiation, autoclaving, and chemical disinfection.
- Last you receive a certificate of destruction detailing treatment date, location, and chain of custody to provide proof of compliance with laws like OSHA.
Need to Improve Your Waste Disposal Process?
Using a medical waste disposal provider helps make disposing potentially hazardous materials safe and compliant.