Wastes from hospitals, laboratories, human and animal clinics are considered hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Non-hazardous includes beddings, linens, bandages, and even waste from the kitchen. In comparison, hazardous wastes are those that carry infectious pathogens, such as used syringes, needles, and broken ampules.
Though the medical waste produced by these organizations comprises 85% non-hazardous and 15% hazardous, making sure that the 15% hazardous waste is managed correctly. The 15% of hazardous waste could be potentially carrying fatal diseases that once exposed to humans.
The question is, what is the best step to ensure that biomedical waste is disposed of and handled properly? The quick answer would be determining the type of biowaste. From there, we will know what’s the proper segregation process.
Types of Biomedical Waste
In different countries, biomedical waste is being classified differently, but often the terms can be used interchangeably. According to US EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency), here are the general use terms for biomedical waste types.
- General Waste. This type of waste is mostly and typically non-hazardous. Waste that can be found in households and offices.
- Infectious Waste. Waste that can cause infections to humans, such as blood, body fluids, and human tissue.
- Hazardous Waste. Non-infectious waste can cause injury to humans like sharps, other chemical waste, and surgical equipment.
- Radioactive Waste. Any waste that’s a result of radioactive treatments such as cancer therapies and the medical apparatus that uses nuclear elements.
But there’s a slight difference between how the US EPA classifies biomedical waste compared to WHO (World Health Organization). Here are the following:
- Infectious Waste. Materials that are infectious or contaminated.
- Sharps. These include needles, scalpels, broken glass, and razors.
- Pathological Waste. Waste that is produced by human or animal such as human or animal tissue, body parts, blood, and fluids.
- Pharmaceutical Waste. Drugs and medicines disposed of by the pharmacy.
- Genotoxic Waste. Hazardous toxic waste such as urine, feces, and residues of certain cytostatic drugs.
- Radioactive Waste. Waste results that potentially have radioactive materials
- Chemical Waste. These are liquid waste that can be either from medicine, disinfectants, and batteries
- General/Other Waste. All other non-hazardous waste.
As mentioned above, there’s a slight difference in how these organizations classify hospital waste. But all in all, the similarities are there. Now that we know the types of biomedical waste, let’s understand each type and how to dispose of them properly.
Proper Segregation Process
People concerned about disposing of biomedical waste must be highly knowledgeable about disposing of them properly. Even more so, hospital staff should be educated on properly segregating them to avoid mishaps and injuries at the workplace. It’s vital to remember that different types of medical waste require different disposal techniques.
How To Dispose of Medical Sharps?
Sharps injuries in the workplace are a prevalent incident. Needlestick injuries are a widespread injury case. According to the CDC, sharp injuries among the Health Care Workers (HCWs) are 385,000 annually. To avoid this accident, proper disposal and segregation must be in place.
For sharps, the use of a white or translucent color code is advised. The container should be puncture-proof, leak-proof, and tamper-proof. This is to ensure that no needlepoint is protruded in the containers.
The right disposing process for sharps is either autoclaving or dry heat sterilization. Once done, shredding, mutilation, or encapsulation in cement concrete before final disposal in iron foundries of the designated waste sharp pit.
How to Dispose of Pathological Waste?
Pathological waste is a waste produced by humans or animals. This can be human blood, tissue, or any other bodily fluids. According to BMWM (Biomedical Waste Management), using yellow-colored non-chlorinated plastic bags should be used for pathological waste, anatomical waste, chemical waste, and laboratory waste.
All of these medical waste has a similarity when it comes to their segregation and disposal process. Incineration or Plasma Pyrolysis, or deep burial are the few options that an organization can choose from.
However, deep burial can only be done when there’s permission from the rural or remote community heads. This can only be permitted if there’s no access to a common bio-medical waste treatment facility. Also, conducting deep burial is upheld with legalities and provisions before being carried out.
Unlike the typical solid waste generated from households, biomedical waste is different. Biomedical waste carries many potential risks that once improper handling and disposal management is carried out, it could expose people to harmful unknown diseases.
For this reason, many healthcare regulatory boards and organizations emphasize the importance of proper medical waste disposal. This is to make sure that healthcare institutions follow the law and make sure that no man is vulnerable to harmful exposure that this waste carries. Following the protocol and ensuring that each staff knows the right segregation process can help mitigate the risk.