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Where Does Medical Waste Go?

Just like in our homes or other establishments, medical establishments such as hospitals and clinics have a lot of waste to dispose of. However, unlike homes where in everything goes to the trash and, eventually, to the dumps, medical wastes are much more complicated to dispose of, and eliminating these wastes is a health concern and should be handled properly and professionally.

If you are curious about how hospitals and clinics dispose of their wastes, then you should read on.

What are Medical Wastes?

Medical wastes, simply put, are wastes that come from medical institutions. However, these have a very broad categorization and cannot be treated uniformly. Basically, there are three types of medical wastes, namely regular wastes, infectious wastes, and pathological wastes.

Regular waste pertains to papers, plastic containers, food scraps, and other types of trash that you would typically find in your home. On the other hand, infectious wastes include blood, urine, tissues, and any other items that may contain them such as cultures or bottles.

Sharp items such as needles and bladed materials also fall under this category. Lastly, pathological wastes include organs or body parts that come from people or animals. Certain items like bags used for chemotherapy are also included within this group.

How are Medical Wastes Disposed?

Obviously, grouping wastes based on their type is absolutely necessary. It is also critical to have controls on these substances from throwing them in the trash to the actual transport and dumping. These procedures follow certain rules and, in some cases, can only be done by authorized and licensed companies and contractors.

Regular waste is segregated and is handled regularly. The local trash collector can do this, and these usually end up in the dumps just like usual trash. In most cases, recyclable items such as paper, lead, and silver will be collected separately and reused, depending on the policies of the institution concerned. This is to reduce costs as well as to help conserve natural resources.

When it comes to infectious wastes, proper care must be taken to avoid both contamination and injury. The standard procedure for disposing infectious wastes is that they are placed in plastic tubs designed so as to prevent leakage.

This is done through the use of red plastic bags. Sharp and non-sharp wastes are usually separated, but both are placed in a separate area, called a biohazard room, for storage until it can be picked up for disposal.

Infectious wastes are picked up by the hauler and dropped off to an accredited biohazard waste specialist. This is done through the use of special trucks that are covered in order to prevent the sealed containers from being dropped onto the road during transport.

The waste disposal company then uses an autoclave which sterilizes the waste using steam, destroying any bacteria or viruses, and disposes of them in a landfill.

Other methods of sterilization may include disinfection using chemicals or heating using microwaves, among others. In some cases, medical institutions like hospitals have their own autoclaves so that they can dispose of infectious wastes as usual without needing to hire a third-party company to do it for them. Certain situations may also require the shredding of said items before actual disposal.

Pathological wastes, on the other hand, are also treated in much the same way as infectious wastes when it comes to storage and transport. However, these wastes typically end up in an incinerator where it is burned, and the ashes are usually disposed of in landfills or used as raw materials for concrete or other products. Like in infectious wastes, waste disposal companies must be accredited before they are allowed to handle pathological wastes.

Why Should You Dispose of Medical Waste Properly?

There are specific laws that control how medical wastes are disposed. In fact, medical institutions and waste disposal companies may lose their licenses to operate if they are found to be not following rules and regulations set with regards to storage, transport, and disposal. The reason for this is the many health risks that come with improper handling of these types of wastes.

Medical wastes must be disposed of properly in order to avoid both injury and infection. Not only can sharp instruments cause mild to severe injury, but improper handling of wastes may cause infection of potentially harmful bacteria or viruses.

People can get easily infected with a disease with a prick of a needle or by inhaling fumes or particulates, and this can be especially harmful if said items are exposed to a large number of people especially through mediums such as water sources as this can easily cause an outbreak of disease that can easily be avoided by proper handling and disposal of wastes.

It is also important to dispose of medical wastes properly as other methods not approved by the government can cause potential harm to the environment. An example of this is the possible release of harmful chemical and particulates into the air which can affect the health of those within close vicinity. This is probable in the case of improper or open-fire incineration of hazardous substances and chemicals.

Other reasons for properly disposing of waste is to prevent both crime and privacy. Incidences of needle theft and reuse must be eliminated, and the privacy of the people from whose bodies these wastes have come from must be protected. As such, proper management of medical wastes ensures that no items can be put to any use for the wrong purposes as well.


Each government has their own set of guidelines on how to properly manage medical waste. These guidelines, in turn, are in line with the World Health Organization’s framework on how to segregate, store, transport, process, and dispose of such wastes.

These guidelines aim to protect not only the public, but also the medical personnel and other proponents involved in the waste disposal procedures. If said protocols are implemented properly on the millions of tons of medical waste that is produced every year, then the safety and health of everyone is assured.


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