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Medical Waste vs. Regular Solid Waste

Posted on 20/06/2017 by Advanced Bio in Blog

medical waste disposal

If you’re in the medical business, medical waste disposal is a big part of what you do. It is important to learn how to dispose of medical waste the right way.

Medical waste disposal is big business. In the United States, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities are expected to spend about $3.2 billion dollars in 2017 to properly dispose of their medical waste. Every staffed bed at an average hospital bed will produce 33 pounds of medical waste everyday.

Medical Waste

The definition of medical waste can dauntingly broad. The United State Environmental Protection Agency defines medical waste as “all waste materials generated at healthcare facilities, such hospitals, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories.”

If you are in leadership at any of those facilities, it can be difficult to know and teach what needs to disposed in what way. You want to keep your employees, your patients, and the general public safe from any harm that could result from contamination. That means having a very clear and precise definition of medical waste.

When we talk about medical waste, we are really talking about any of the following things:

  • Sharps – This might include needles, scalpels, knives, and blades.
  • Radioactive – Liquid from a radiotherapy lab or contaminated glassware
  • Chemical – Expired lab reagents and disinfectants
  • Pathological – Body parts, blood, bodily fluids
  • Infectious Waste – Any waste that could cause infection from a virus, bacteria, or parasites
  • Pharmaceuticals – Expired or tainted medicine
  • Pressurized Containers – gas cylinders or gas cartridges

Medical waste, like the list above, all have very particular rules, regulations, and guidelines by which they are accounted, disposed, transported, and ultimately destroyed. It is important to know what items in any facility belong to the list above and what is considered regular solid waste.

Regular Solid Waste

Regular solid waste is not regulated with the same rigor and care as medical waste. Regular solid waste is similar to the type of waste a household would produce. This might include papers, plastics, foodstuffs, and anything else that has not been in contact with patients and would not be considered infectious. You dispose of regular solid waste in accordance with your local rules and regulations.

Although 75-90% of most facilities’ waste is regular solid waste, it is the process, procedures, and practices related to medical waste that will most help the financial health of the facility.

Medical Waste Done Correctly Could Be a Life (and Money) Saver

Disposing of medical waste is not cheap and it does take extra care and time among all members of staff. But the potential cost of improper disposal easily eclipses that extra care and cost.

First, there is the potential legal costs associated with an outbreak that can be traced back to your facility. Federal law states that the facility that produces medical waste is legally responsible for disposing of that waste. If you are found responsible for injury to anyone in the community, you will most likely have to cover the cost of the injury, damages, and federal penalties. Some of these costs may not be covered by medical malpractice insurance.

Secondly, improperly disposed of medical waste could injure your staff or patients.

And lastly, medical waste that is not handled, shipped, and destroyed properly will ultimately damage your reputation. You want the image of a facility that cares for its staff, patients, and community by properly and carefully disposing of medical waste.