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How do Hospitals Dispose of their Medical Waste?

How do Hospitals Dispose of their Medical Waste?

While there are numerous medical facilities and businesses that create medical waste, hospitals top the list for the largest quantity of medical waste. Each year, hospitals have almost 6 million tons of medical waste, with around 85% considered to be non-biohazardous and 15% considered to be “regulated medical waste” (RMW).  There are very strict local, state, and federal guidelines on the disposal of RMW, and each state has their own guidelines that complement federal laws for the safety and protection of people and the planet. Compliance assists to ensure that infectious items are disposed of properly so that the population and the environment aren’t exposed for transmission.

Federal agencies that work with states for the oversight of medical waste disposal include: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), DOT (Department of Transportation), USPS (United States Postal Service), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). 

Main Medical Waste Disposal Methods for Hospitals

As the main generator of medical waste, hospitals are also the largest generator of infectious materials. Priorities are placed on proper disposal so that the items are no longer harmful and can be placed in a sterile landfill.

While a majority of hospital medical waste is deemed harmless and can be disposed of as regular trash, the balance that is considered to be dangerous must follow compliance rules. Based on the type of medical waste, hospital use two major methods of disposal:

A majority of hospitals make use of licensed, trained and professional medical waste disposal companies that comply with all laws and guidelines. These companies supply the hospitals with all documentation to ensure that medical waste has been treated to reduce it to being harmless and is disposed of according to local, state, and federal requirements. The RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) is a requirement standard that is held by all states and medical waste disposal companies are required to comply with the strict guidelines for both the generator and the disposal company.

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