Medical Waste Disposal Questions & Answers

What is considered medical waste?

Any kind of waste that contains pathogens that can cause disease. It is inclusive of waste produced by hospitals, surgi-centers, medical and dental offices, labs dialysis centers, plasma centers and veterinarian practices.

What are the most common methods of disposing of medical waste?

There are four major categories for medical waste disposal. All medical waste must be regulated and be in compliance with Federal and State laws.

  • 1. General Medical Waste produced in medical offices such as paper, plastics and regular office waste all of which may be disposed in regular waste containers.

  • 2. Infectious Medical Waste, this type of waste may contain or propose infection that would be harmful to humans, animals and the environment. Infectious waste has strict requirements for storage, transport, disposal, licensing, and processing.

  • 3. Hazardous Medical Waste poses threat of infection inclusive of sharps that have not been or have been used, because they have the ability to puncture or harm the user. Chemotherapy agents, as well as chemicals, such as solvents, mercury in thermometers, and lead in paint.

  • 4. Radioactive Medical waste inclusive of all sharps that have not been used, because they have the ability to puncture or harm the user. Chemotherapy agents fall into this category, as well as chemicals, such as solvents, mercury in thermometers, and lead in paint.

Who is responsible for the disposal of the medical waste after it has been taken away from the producers of the waste?

In 1988, Congress enacted the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988, a United States federal law that addressed the handling and disposal of medical waste in coastal areas. It was designed primarily to monitor the treatment of medical wastes through their creation, transportation and destruction, i.e. from "cradle-to-grave." Four requirements were primarily identified; first, to provide a means of monitoring "the transportation of waste from the generator to the disposal facility" unless said waste had previously been incinerated. Secondly, to be able to ensure the "generator of the waste" that the waste had been "received by the disposal facility." Next to develop a uniform form for the tracking of materials across states and finally to develop a means to label and contain the wastes for the safety of the handlers.

How does medical waste effect the environment?

Medical waste airborne pollutants can effect our environment; radioactive pollutants, ground water pollutants and wildlife hazards posed by pharmaceutical ingestion and pricks from sharps (needles) if not disposed of properly also pose a huge problem. Most methods of disposal that include incineration and autoclaving produce c02 emissions even after proper disposal.

Can medical waste be recycled?

Usually medical waste is sterilized and then disposed in a sanitary landfill. There are other items that can easily be recycled including plastic items, such as IV bags, syringes, dialysis tubes and plasma tubing, which can be treated, either by melting them down or by chemical sanitation, therefore sterilized, and now ready to be made anew.

What do we do with 2 billion pounds of potentially infectious medical waste?

There are three primary treatment methods used to dispose of medical waste, each uses either heat, chemical reactions, or a combination of both to decontaminate bio hazardous wastes. All ending up in our landfills. In addition to disinfection, some states and landfills require that medical waste be shredded to make the contents unrecognizable.

How long can biomedical waste be stored?

Storage of biomedical waste in a place other than at the generating facility shall not exceed 30 days. The 30-day storage period shall begin on the day the waste is collected from the generator.

How is medical waste collected?

Due to recent regulation, biohazard waste disposal companies must come to pick up the waste and take it to a treatment facility to be rendered safe and non-hazardous.

What is the importance of environmentally friendly medical waste disposal?

Environmentally safe waste treatment centers not only use materials and processes that are eco-friendly, but they also help to significantly decrease the amount of toxic waste that leaks into the environment helping to preserve our earth.

How does segregation of medical waste help the environment?

Segregation reduces the amount of waste that needs special handling and treatment and prevents the mixture of medical waste like sharps with the general waste. It also provides the opportunity of recycling, and reduces the cost of disposal and treatment.

Are there ecofriendly ways to reduce medical waste?

Start by proper segregation of the waste. Reduce the packaging size as warranted and reuse single use devises as long as it is in compliance and an option of your state and federal law. Have a medical waste management plan and last but not least, be sure to use a disposal management company that understands and is compliant with medical waste disposal laws.