How to Safely Dispose of Medical Waste



Medical waste must be properly handled and disposed of to prevent the unnecessary spread of infectious diseases.

What is Medical Waste

Medical waste is any type of material that is itself or is contaminated by (or even potentially contaminated by) infectious materials.

This type of waste includes items such as blood and other bodily fluids, samples taken in a laboratory or used during medical research, and includes any items/tools/materials that come (or may have the potential to come) into contact with these items (such as bandages, bed linens, needles, swabs, etc.)

Different Types of Medical Waste

Because the general definition of medical waste is broad, and different organizations typically produce certain kinds of medical waste, different categories exist to help distinguish between different types of waste.

Sharps disposalCategories are formed based on how dangerous waste items are, what type of container certain materials should be stored in, and what type of institution might produce this waste.

Not all medical waste is considered dangerous, so the law has created the term “regulated medical waste” to classify potentially harmful waste. These are the types of waste most commonly regulated by states:

    • Contaminated sharps
    • Contaminated animal carcasses, body parts and bedding
    • Isolation waste
    • Pathological waste
    • Human blood and blood products
    • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents

Stages in the Medical Waste Disposal Process

Organizations such as hospitals might have a hard time properly managing medical waste because they produce so much medical waste at such a rapid pace and it falls into so many different categories.

One of the best ways to combat improper medical waste disposal and reduce risk is to create a clear, thought out plan and educate all team members on proper disposal.

Understanding the medical waste disposal process full cycle will help you make better decisions for your disposal plan.

Step 1: Collection and Sorting

Properly sorted medical wasteThe first step in proper medical waste disposal process is collecting and sorting medical waste before it gets muddled and possibly thrown in with the normal garbage.

Medical waste containers come in different colors to easily denote which type of waste goes in them. They come in different sizes and shapes for convenience and are made of different materials for extra protection against some items like sharps.

Audit your building and strategically place medical waste containers in areas that make disposal quick and easy to reduce the risk of improper disposal.

Step 2: Storage

Medical waste should be disposed of regularly. Biohazardous waste must legally be disposed of every 30 days at a maximum (unless it’s stored in below freezing temperatures).

Whether or not your medical waste is a biohazard, regularly disposing of your waste will keep your work space clean, risk-free, compliant, and safe.

Even though medical waste may not be ready for immediate disposal at this point, it’s important to store materials in the proper waste container (hard shelled for sharps, leak proof for infectious, etc.) until they are ready to be disposed of.

Step 3: Transportation

Transporting medical waste involves hauling it to your vehicle and subsequently driving it to a facility for final disposal.

Whether you gather and transport your own waste to a nearby facility (which is uncommon) or you have a service provider picking up your waste from your location, it’s imperative that your waste be properly contained to avoid contamination during transport.

Ensure your waste is in the proper container, properly labeled, thoroughly sealed, and make sure no container is overflowing or able to spill.

Step 4: Final Disposal

Proper medical waste disposal in a red bagThe most common means of destruction of medical waste is incineration. Materials can also be treated via radiation, thermally, or chemically, depending on the type of material.

This process should be completed by professionals, and not performed in house. Medical waste disposal services make the process easy—coming to you to pick up and transport your materials and safely disposing of them for you.

Find a Safe and Reliable Medical Waste Disposal Service Provider Near You

One of the easiest ways to manage the medical waste you produce is to use a collection service. Medical waste disposal professionals can stop by your location as often as you need to pick up your waste and safely dispose of it for you.

Schedule your disposal services for daily, weekly, or monthly pickups and keep you workplace safe and compliant.

Shred Nations partners with all types of destruction service providers across North America. Call us at (800) 747-3365 or fill out form to get free quotes from medical waste disposal service providers in your area.