Like in our homes or other establishments, medical establishments such as hospitals and clinics have waste, too. However, unlike homes wherein everything goes to the trash and, eventually, to the dumps, disposing of medical waste is much more complicated; these wastes and their proper and professional disposition have always been a health concern.
If you are curious about how hospitals and clinics dispose of their wastes, you should read on.
What are Medical Wastes?
Medical wastes, simply put, are wastes that come from medical facilities. However, these have a broad categorization and cannot be treated uniformly. There are three types of medical wastes, regular, infectious, and pathological wastes.
Regular wastes are papers, plastic containers, food scraps, and other trash that you would typically find in your home. On the other side, infectious wastes include blood, urine, tissues, and their containers, such as laboratory 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. Also, certain items like bags used for chemotherapy are included in this group.
How are Medical Wastes Disposed?
Grouping wastes based on their type is necessary. It is also critical to control transferring these substances from throwing them in the trash to the actual transport and dumping. These procedures follow specific rules and, in some cases, can only be done by authorized and licensed companies and contractors.
Segregation and handling of regular waste happen daily. 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 affiliated institution’s policies. The aim is to reduce costs as well as to help conserve natural resources.
Taking proper care is necessary when it comes to infectious wastes to avoid both contamination and injury. The standard procedure for disposing of infectious waste is placing them in plastic tubs designed to prevent leakage.
This is done through the use of red-coloured plastic bags. Sharp and non-sharp wastes are usually segregated, but both are stored in a separate area, called the biohazard room, until they can be picked up for disposal.
The hauler picks up infectious wastes, and an accredited biohazard waste specialist drops them off. Special trucks are covered 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, killing 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.
On the other hand, pathological wastes are 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 to turn into ashes; 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 to be allowed to handle pathological wastes.
Why Should You Dispose of Medical Waste Properly?
There are specific laws that control disposing of medical wastes. Medical institutions and waste disposal companies could lose their licenses to operate if it turns out that they have not followed the rules and regulations of storage, transport, and disposal. The reason is that many health risks come with improper handling of these types of wastes. The reason is that many health risks come with improper handling of these wastes.
Medical wastes must be disposed of properly to avoid both injury and infection. Not only can sharp instruments cause mild to severe injuries, but improper handling of wastes may cause infection of potentially harmful bacteria or viruses.
People can get diseases with a prick of a needle or by inhaling fumes or particulates. It becomes especially harmful when people are exposed to these items through mediums such as water sources. It can easily cause an outbreak that would be avoidable by proper handling and disposal of wastes.
It is also critical to dispose of medical wastes properly when other methods that the government has not approved can cause potential harm to the environment. An example is the possible release of harmful chemicals and particulates into the air that can affect those in close vicinity. It is probable in the case of improper or open-fire incineration of hazardous substances and chemicals.
Preventing both crime and privacy violations are other reasons for properly disposing of the waste. Incidences of needle theft and reuse must be eliminated while protecting the privacy of the people whose bodies these wastes have come from. As such, proper management of medical wastes ensures that no items can be put to any use for the wrong purposes.
Each government has its own set of guidelines on the proper management of 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 at protecting the public, 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 are assured.