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A Foolproof Guide to Medical Waste Disposal

February 9, 2022

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A Foolproof Guide to Medical Waste Disposal

A Foolproof Guide to Medical Waste Disposal. The last thing you want to think about is medical waste. But it’s important that you do. Medical waste is made up of items that are often contaminated with blood, fluids, and other infectious materials that can pose a health risk to people. If not disposed of properly, medical waste risks endangering people, animals, and the environment. Disposing of medical waste isn’t always straightforward though. This guide will help make it easy for you to get rid of all your medical waste in an environmentally friendly way.

Medical Waste Definition

Medical waste does not have a universal definition, each state is responsible for classifying and defining infectious medical waste but in general medical waste are items that are often contaminated with blood, fluids, and other infectious materials. Medical waste is waste capable of transmitting a dangerous communicable disease. It can include:

It’s important to dispose of medical waste in a safe way to avoid endangering people or the environment.  It’s why you should know how to do it right.

General Guidelines for Handling Medical Waste

There are a few general guidelines for handling medical waste.  Medical waste is hazardous to the environment and can be dangerous if not disposed of properly. In many cases, it should be disposed of by a licensed medical waste management company.

  1. Make sure you’re aware of your state’s regulations – Every state has different requirements for how to dispose of medical waste. It’s important to know the details before disposing of your medical waste.

Disposing of Infectious Medical Waste

Disposing of medical waste is important, but it’s not always straightforward. Learn how to dispose of medical waste in an environmentally friendly way with this guide.

It’s important to make sure you have the right containers to meet your needs and that not all medical waste will be disposed of the same way. For example, sharps are usually disposed of in hard plastic containers that are puncture resistant. This ensures that the sharps are not able to puncture the container and injure anyone.

Sharps Disposal

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has estimated that there are around 385,000 sharps injuries that occur on an annual basis in U.S. hospitals with many more in other healthcare settings.  This increases the risk of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as HBV (hepatitis B), HCV (hepatitis C), and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Dealing with sharps requires taking every precaution and complying with the various state and federal laws to ensure that healthcare providers and patients remain safe.

Sharps should never be recapped and should always be discarded just after use by the user. It is important to have FDA cleared sharps containers available at the point of generation.

The safest type of sharps container is one that prevents contact with other sharps in the container. This is accomplished by using a container that has a touchless disposal process. You place the sharp in a tray and rotate the lid, so the sharps drop into the container without you having to place them inside of the container manually, which helps prevent sticks from other items in the container.

When picking up other types of sharps like broken glass, you should use a pan and broom and never pick up the items by hand.

Only uncap needles when they are ready to be used. You can use a hemostat to loosen and remove the cap.

Always keeping your eye on the sharps while in use and making sure the needle is pointed away from the user can help prevent accidental needle sticks.

Pathological Waste

Pathological waste is red bag waste but must be separated from regular red bag waste. Pathological waste requires different storage and handling. For instance, pathological waste must be incinerated and therefore must be properly labeled as “incineration only”. In addition, pathological waste maybe hazardous waste if it was in contact with chemicals that fall under the RCRA hazardous lists, like chemotherapy. Extra precautions should also be taken when disposing of pathological waste into red bags to prevent leakage in the case of items containing bodily fluids, double bagging, storing in plastic bins, etc.

Identifying the waste, segregating the waste, and labeling the waste appropriately is the key to a successful medical waste management program. All employees from doctors to part-time janitorial staff should be aware of the policies and procedures required for each waste type they may encounter.

Cultures/Stocks of Infectious Agents

Microbiological Waste including Biosafety Level 1, 2 and 3 organisms is medical waste and maybe chemically treated or autoclaved. Microbiological waste can be in solid or liquid forms. Solid forms once placed in a properly labeled, leak proof container can be disinfected by thermal or chemical treatment.

In most cases, solid biological waste is accumulated in the red-bag-lined cardboard boxes or plastic bins, while liquid wastes are in spill/leak proof containers until disinfected. All sharps must be collected in designated sharps containers.

Any staff member that risks potential exposure to blood or biological fluids will be supplied with and wear PPE such as gloves, full bodysuits, booties, and respirators when required.

Biohazard Waste

The risk of infection and transmission of potentially deadly diseases is too great.  State and Federal laws also indicate that the generator is responsible for the biohazard waste from the moment of creation to proving that it was appropriately disposed of according to legal guidelines. Lack of compliance can result in high fines that are compounded daily. A medical waste disposal company will supply clients with the manifests needed while taking care of all biohazard waste disposal according to all guidelines required. The dangers of mishandling biohazard waste disposal can cause transmission of deadly diseases to people and the environment.

Biohazard waste is generally autoclaved to make it non-infectious as it does not require incineration and is a more environmentally friendly way to treat medical waste.

Isolation Waste

Isolation waste is everything anyone brings into an isolation room, even things that are not consider medical or biohazardous waste. There are three basic isolation waste categories: unregulated solid waste, medical or red bag waste, and sharps waste. Proper PPE is required for isolation rooms typically these rooms will have a sign on the door and a waste cart right outside the room. The key is not to use or take the gowns, gloves, shoe coverings throughout the rest of the healthcare facility. These items will be put on prior to entering the room and removed before leaving the patient’s room. Regular biohazard waste and sharps waste disposal procedures apply since these are adequate to destroy diseases.

Contaminated Animal Carcasses Waste

Contaminated Animal Carcasses should be marked for incineration to be disposed of at an approved disposal facility. This waste is treated and disposed of similarly to Pathological Waste. Contaminated Animal Carcasses waste must be incinerated and therefore must be properly labeled as “incineration only”. In addition, this waste maybe hazardous waste if it was in contact with chemicals that fall under the RCRA hazardous lists, like chemotherapy. Extra precautions should also be taken when disposing of Contaminated Animal Carcasses into red bags to prevent leakage in the case of items containing bodily fluids, double bagging, storing in plastic bins, etc.

What You Need to Know

When you hire a medical waste disposal company you may not think… that you are only hiring a hauler moves the waste from point A to Point B. Or a broker a company, this type of company only holds the paperwork and hires another company, name, and all to service your account. The broker charges you more, finds a local company to do it for less, and they keep the difference without doing any work.

Without asking the right questions you could be stuck in a bad situation for years to come.

If you are looking for a full-service medical waste service provider one of the most important questions you could ask is. Do you own, your own, treatment plants?

A medical waste disposal company that owns, its own, treatment plants show they have a commitment to being a full-service provider.

There are processes in place that regulate medical waste processors, because of that, they must stay abreast of the latest laws and regulations concerning medical waste collection, storage, and treatment.

To give you an idea, in Indiana there are only four medical waste processor plants registered in the entire state, out of all the medical waste disposal companies in Indiana, or that service Indiana, only four companies in the entire state are able to treat and dispose of your medical waste, Healthcare Waste Management is one of the four.

Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we are a full-service Medical Waste Disposal Company. We are a professional company that employs our own licensed, trained, and certified staff and drivers. We take responsibility by ownership of all our trucks and the facilities that the waste will be transported to and destroyed. Our employees ensure that our healthcare clients have complete documentation confirming that their medical waste has been destroyed. We take pride in maintaining up-to-date information on all changes within the industry.

At Healthcare Waste Management we are one of a few companies in the industry that own the entire process from start to finish, meaning we own the trucks, we directly employ the drivers / handlers, and we destroy the waste at our processing plants with our employees.

When a company does not own the entire process, that means they are paying some other company to one of the process points, for example, destroy the waste, or pick up the waste. As with any process, the more hands involved in the process, the greater the risk, the more hands involved in the process, the greater the cost. No one is handling your medical or biohazardous waste for free.

Healthcare Waste Management complies with all guidelines so that our clients can rest assured of the safety and efficacy of their cradle-to-grave responsibilities. Our trained and certified employees assist in educating our customers, picking up the medical waste, transporting the medical waste in our company-owned trucks, and properly disposing of the medical waste in our own facilities. Healthcare Medical Waste takes care of our medical waste, from start to finish.

Healthcare Waste Management is proud to bring a first-class medical waste disposal experience to our customers. From the local single Doctors office to national healthcare systems, we bring innovation and customer service that is unparalleled. That’s a strong statement but we back it up by owning your medical waste from start to finish. We own the trucks that come to your facility, we employ the drivers that come into your facility, and we own the destruction plants that destroy your waste. By having one company handle your waste from ‘cradle-to-grave’ allows us to bring our customers, the best process, products, and services with significant savings compared to the industry standard pricing. We do this while reducing our client’s impact on the environment which is a true win-win. Best processes, pricing and practices is what we built our company on.

Our commitment to our customers and the environment doesn’t stop with our cradle-to-grave management of your medical waste. We also use a state-of-the-art reusable container system for medical waste and sharps waste that keeps unnecessary waste from impacting the environment and landfills. Our cradle-to-grave management process, reusable medical waste and sharps disposal containers, fuel efficient trucks and intelligent routing are all examples of our commitment to our customers and the environment.

Healthcare Waste Management is centrally positioned to service our customers across the Midwest. We’re proud to bring decades of professional medical disposal services to customers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Minnesota. If you’d like to inquire about service in your state, from compliance training, medical waste services, to document destruction please contact us today at 888-427-5797.


Healthcare Environmental Resource Center – Types of Regulated Medical Waste. Accessed 2-7-22.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Infection Control. Accessed 2-7-22.

OSHA 1910.1030 – Bloodborne pathogens. Standards, Occupational Safety.   Accessed 2-7-22.

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