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How to Dispose of Medical Waste
January 5, 2023 at 8:00 AM
Waste Area

Medical waste must first go through a sterilization process before being disposed of. This applies to waste that cannot be recycled, like gauze or needles, that must be made sanitary and non-hazardous. The process of disposing of medical waste is typically done by using an autoclave, which uses steam to sterilize equipment and other objects.

This article will discuss how medical waste is disposed of.

What is medical waste?

Medical waste, also referred to as regulated medical waste or biomedical waste, is generated from both biological and medical activities relating to the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases. Typical medical waste generators include hospitals, medical research labs, physician offices, dentists, veterinary clinics, nursing homes, and funeral homes.

This type of waste is characterized by items contaminated by blood, bodily fluids, or other infectious materials that have the potential to harm humans, animals, or the environment. Remember to check the classification of medical waste where you live, as it varies from state to state.

Laws and regulations for medical waste

State environmental and health departments are the primary regulators of medical waste. However, there are other federal agencies that have regulations as well, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Each of these federal agencies has certain standards and regulations that must be followed regarding medical waste. For example, OSHA requires businesses to have the following:

  • Exposure control plan
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Compliance methods
  • Training
  • Vaccinations

Ways to dispose of medical waste

There are two main ways to dispose of medical waste — on-site medical waste treatment and off-side medical waste treatment. We’ll go into further detail on each of these disposal methods below.

On-site medical waste treatment

On-site medical waste treatment is usually limited to large hospitals and facilities as it is extremely cost-prohibitive. The reason why is that the required equipment is expensive to buy and maintain. There are also a lot of hurdles to jump through regarding the equipment, which can present another barrier to entry.

Off-site medical waste treatment

Off-site medical waste treatment is more cost-effective than on-site treatment and works for most small and medium-sized businesses and facilities. With this treatment type, vendors who operate in the healthcare waste collection and disposal business have the equipment and training needed to handle the disposal process. Vendors typically collect the waste either by truck or mail.

How is medical waste treated?

Once the medical waste has been processed, it’s treated by incineration, autoclaving, microwave, or chemical treatment. Here’s more information on each type:

  • Incineration: The primary method used to dispose of pathological waste such as body parts or recognizable tissues.
  • Autoclaving: Steam sterilization renders the biohazard waste non-infections, and it is then disposed of in solid waste landfills.
  • Microwaving: This method involves microwaving hazardous materials with high-powered equipment.
  • Chemical: Some types of chemical waste can be neutralized by applying reactive chemicals.
  • Biological: This experimental method of treating biomedical waste uses enzymes to neutralize hazardous, infectious organisms.

Contact us to learn how our medical waste professionals can help

If choosing between medical waste management companies in St. Louis county is difficult, at Preferred Waste Concepts, we are the premier solution. With over 26 years of industry experience, our processes are refined, efficient, secure, and compliant. We always tailor services to your specific needs and budget. Fill out a contact form to learn more.