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Where Does Medical Waste Go?



November 17, 2022



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Where Does Medical Waste Go?

Where Does Medical Waste Go? The term “medical waste” can be frightening when you first hear it. Who wouldn’t be concerned about disposing of blood, bodily fluids and other materials that are biohazard to the public? However, as medical workers, we know that it’s good for our patients and ourselves to have this disposal process outlined so stringently. It is for our own safety and well-being in the workplace. Medical waste management is a topic that may not excite you, but it’s essential for keeping everyone safe from infection potential caused by disposing of these items haphazardly.

What Is Medical Waste?

Medical waste is any waste that can be contaminated by pathogens from humans or animals. It is usually generated in healthcare settings such as hospitals, medical labs, healthcare clinics, and dental offices. Healthcare facilities that are involved in the care of patients who may be infectious (those with communicable diseases) produce medical waste. Medical waste can contain a variety of contaminants, including sharps, blood, body fluids, pathogens, and other infectious materials. When medical waste is not disposed of properly, it can pose significant risks to human health and the environment.

Why Is Medical Waste Disposed of Differently?

The biggest reason is that it can contain pathogens that can be harmful to the public. It can be contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, and other pathogens that can lead to infection and disease if not handled and disposed of properly. Contaminated items are also capable of being transported outside of the healthcare facility, posing threats to the public. If someone were to pick up a syringe or another item of contaminated materials and accidentally stuck themselves with it, then it has the potential to cause a public health issue. What makes medical waste so much riskier than other types of waste is that it can be infectious. These substances can be harmful to both the environment and humans. There are also safety considerations for the workers who handle these infectious materials.

Disposing of Biohazardous Waste Correctly

There are several ways to dispose of medical waste. Make sure to check with your state to determine the best and safest methods for disposing of your medical waste. Some of the ways that medical waste can be disposed of include Incineration: Incineration used to be the most common method of medical waste disposal. It involves burning the waste in a controlled environment. However, since 1997 the regulations for incineration have become very stringent and as a result a lot of the incinerators closed. The waste is usually shredded before it is burned to reduce the size of the materials and increase the rate of incineration. The heat from the incinerator is high enough to kill bacteria and other pathogens in the waste. Autoclaving: Autoclaving involves placing waste in airtight containers and placing these containers in an autoclave, which is a machine that uses pressure and heat to sterilize the waste, today this is the most common method however, some waste types must be incinerated by regulations. Chemical disinfection: Chemical disinfection involves using chemicals to kill pathogens in the waste.  Microwaving: Microwaving a method that makes use of powerful microwaves to render the waste harmless.

Types of Regulated Waste

As per the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center. The following six medical wastes are commonly regulated by states:

Pathological waste. Tissues, organs, body parts, and body fluids removed during surgery and autopsy.

Human blood and blood products. Waste blood, serum, plasma, and blood products.

Cultures and stocks of infectious agents (microbiological waste). Specimens from medical and pathology laboratories. Includes culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix. Also includes discarded live and attenuated vaccines.

Contaminated sharps. Contaminated hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass.

Isolation waste. Generated by hospitalized patients isolated to protect others from communicable disease.

Contaminated animal carcasses, body parts and bedding. From animals intentionally exposed to pathogens in research, biologicals production, or in vivo pharmaceuticals testing.

Where Does Medical Waste Go?

When medical waste is properly disposed of, it is first sent to a medical waste treatment plant, where it is made non-infectious. When looking for a management company ask them if they own the medical waste treatment plant, you will want to find a company that does own their own waste treatment plant. It is usually a more effective service, higher quality service, and economical pricing.

At the treatment facility, the waste is treated to eliminate the risk it poses. It is decontaminated and sanitized to remove any pathogens. Treatment plants are carefully regulated to make sure they meet environmental and safety standards.

After the waste has been decontaminated it must be properly disposed of. This involves making the waste unrecognizable as medical waste. This is usually done by shredding and compacting, reducing the amount of space needed to dispose of in a landfill.

Final Words

Medical waste can contain pathogens that can be harmful to the public if it is not handled and disposed of properly. It is therefore essential for medical workers to be aware of the types of waste they produce and how it should be handled, segregated, and stored. Medical waste can be infectious, contain blood or other bodily fluids, or be composed of pieces of broken glassware or other sharp objects. It is important to properly identify and treat this waste so that it does not cause harm to the public or the environment. When medical waste is properly disposed of, it is sent to a medical waste treatment facility, where it is decontaminated. At the facility, the waste is treated to minimize the risk it poses.


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