The definition of medical (also known as biomedical or clinical) waste is fairly broad: all waste materials generated at health care facilities, medical research facilities, laboratories can be considered as medical waste. However, it is important to note that even households produce their own clinical waste, as does any organization that deals with needles and/or syringes. Regardless of how you describe medical waste, one thing is certain: its disposal and management isn’t something to be taken lightly.
As always, the surest way to avoid polluting the environment and exposing yourself and your colleagues to any risk is to look for the services of medical waste disposal companies. They are the ones who possess the most suitable know-how and resources to deal with the management of your clinical waste efficiently. So how do they do it? There are three main steps to take in order to handle the process of medical waste disposal from start to finish (of course, depending on categorization, you may find more than three elsewhere): collection & segregation, storage & transportation, and finally treatment & disposal.
Step 1: Biomedical waste collection and segregation
As is the case for all waste, the best practices for managing it start at the point of generation, when waste is produced. In order to collect waste, one must first be familiar with what to collect exactly, since there each category of medical waste needs to be separated from the other types. In practice, this means using the right containers. These are usually color coded to help biomedical waste segregation.
- Red containers: sharps waste collection (e.g. needles, blades, razors).
- Red containers with a biohazard symbol: infectious waste collection (e.g. blood, contaminated equipment, IV tubing).
- Yellow containers: trace chemotherapy waste collection (e.g. empty vials, gloves, gowns).
- Black containers: hazardous waste collection (e.g. hazardous meds, P-listed drugs, bulk chemo)
- Blue containers: pharmaceutical waste collection (e.g. pills, injectables, antibiotics).
- Yellow, shielded containers with a radioactive symbol: radioactive waste collection (e.g. lab research liquids, anything contaminated by radiotherapy).
Step 2: Biomedical waste storage and transportation
If you are in contact with a medical waste disposal company, it will handle safe storage and transportation for you. In any case, clinical waste needs to be stored in a secure facility that is off-limits to the general public, and well separated from any areas that might be used for food or drink consumption. Storage is essential until medical waste can be disposed of in bulk. As for transportation, most medical waste management companies provide special vehicles equipped with state of the art defensive tools.
Step 3: Biomedical waste disposal and treatment
Always remember: until your medical waste is safely disposed of, your company is the one responsible for any fallout it may cause, making it essential to choose a professional waste removal company. Apart from incineration (used for pathological and pharmaceutical waste disposal),there are other biomedical waste disposal methods, like autoclave chambers (sharps and infectious waste disposal),or chemical disinfection (liquid and chemical waste disposal).