Medical services are unlike any other business and this is no more evident when it comes to how their waste products are handled. Much of the waste they produce is paper and food and typical trash that is bagged and disposed of in a similar manner to any other garbage. It is the medical waste that must be managed more carefully. Hospitals and clinics in the United States have millions of tons of medical waste that must be hauled away each year and then processed and disposed of properly. Not doing so could create a public health crisis.
Identifying Waste Properly
Careful disposal requires medical professionals to sort their waste in a proper manner. Incorrect sorting is potentially dangerous and expensive for the medical facility. Correct medical waste disposal includes separating blood, bodily fluids and body parts from all other materials. It also includes any paper or other products containing blood or fluids. Sharps, medical devices, and radioactive materials are also considered potentially hazardous waste materials.
Collecting Waste Materials
All waste must be contained in a way that will not directly or indirectly expose anyone to any risk. Medical facilities use special containers for the disposal of the items that are properly marked to warn people of the potentially dangerous contents. These containers are retrieved by disposal companies that have specific training regarding how to safely collect, haul and treat the waste.
Disposing of Materials
There are multiple methods of sterilization and disposal of this type of waste. Depending on the contents of the potentially infectious materials they may be burned, steamed or sent through an autoclave that applies heat and pressure. Much of the remaining waste will be shredded and compacted before it reaches its final stop at a landfill.
The procedures for handling and treating medical waste has changed to prevent the problem of environmental damage and pollution of water sources. Most disposal companies require all of their employees to undergo special training regarding infectious waste. Hospitals, clinics, dental practices and even veterinary hospitals have strict regulations about how their waste is sorted. Even medical waste produced in the home is now a concern and some companies are working with residential customers to collect their waste.