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Medical Waste Disposal Fact Sheet



September 29, 2021



Home » Medical Waste Disposal » Medical Waste Disposal Fact Sheet

Medical Waste Disposal Fact Sheet

What is Medical Waste?

Medical Waste Disposal Fact Sheet. Medical waste is typically healthcare waste generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals which has been or is likely to have been contaminated by an organism capable of causing disease in healthy humans. Medical Waste includes items such as: cultures and stocks of microorganisms and biologicals; blood and blood products; pathological wastes; sharps; animal carcasses, body parts, bedding and related wastes; isolation wastes; any residue resulting from a spill cleanup; and any waste mixed with or contaminated by infectious medical waste.

What is not Medical Waste?

Medical waste does not include used personal hygiene products such as, diapers, facial tissues, and sanitary napkins, gauze and dressing material, containing small amounts of blood or other body secretions, hair, nails and extracted teeth, and body parts being used or examined for medical purposes. Human remains lawfully interred in a cemetery or in preparation by a licensed mortician for interment or cremation. Most waste generated by hospitals about 85% of healthcare waste is general non-infectious waste, like everyday household or office waste.  

How do we get rid of Medical Waste?

Before Medical Waste can be disposed of it must be treated to make it noninfectious. Several methods are available for this purpose. Traditional methods include steam treatment or autoclaving, microwaving, chemical treatment, and incineration for specific types of medical waste. The best option is to hire a professional medical waste treatment company, who has their own plants to treat medical waste and make it non-infectious.

How is Medical Waste Generated?

Medical Waste is generated daily when people visit their family doctor for vaccines such as, flu shots and childhood immunizations. It is also generated when people have surgery and many other medical procedures. We cannot eliminate medical waste, but we can minimize the amount generated by proper segregation from regular waste.  

Who Generates Medical Waste?

There are many facilities which generate medical waste. Some examples are hospitals, doctors’ offices, dentists, clinics, laboratories, research facilities, veterinarians, ambulance squads and emergency medical service providers. Medical waste is even generated at tattoo and body piercing facilities, and in homes by home health care providers and individuals, such as diabetics, who must receive injections at home.

How Much Medical Waste is Generated Each Year?

The most recent data shows that the large quantity generators like hospitals, those that generate more than fifty pounds in a one month per period, generated over 6 million tons during the year. This figure does not include medical waste generated by the small quantity generators which account for approximately another 2 million tons per year.

How to Treat and Dispose of Medical Waste?

Some hospitals and laboratories can treat, on site, most of the medical waste they generate. Several facilities of the past had medical waste incinerators within their facilities to treat the waste they generate. However, since 1997 when regulations became stricter on incinerators, to reduce the amount of pollutants they produced, most hospitals have moved away from this because of strict guidelines and the cost of operation. Most generators of medical waste today, contract with an independent company to pick up their medical waste and haul it away for treatment. When looking for a medical waste disposal company it is best to find a company that not only hauls your waste but also owns the treatment plants to make it non-infectious.

Does Medical Waste Require a License to Transport?

This information is specific to federal DOT regulations. States may have different and or additional rules that are required under state law.

The term medical waste is defined differently by many state and federal agencies. Under federal DOT regulations medical waste is defined as a material suspected, or known to contain an infectious substance, and is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, immunization, or biomedical research of humans or animals.

An infectious substance is defined as a material known or reasonably expected to contain a pathogen. A pathogen is a microorganism (including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi) or other agent, such as a proteinaceous infectious particle (prion) that can cause disease in humans or animals.

An infectious substance must be assigned the identification number UN 2814, UN 2900, or UN 3373, UN 3291 as appropriate.

The federal department of transportation regulates the transportation of wastes that can pose a risk to safety, health, and environment when transported. Along with DOT numbers, there is specific DOT required training at the federal level. Often, at the state level there are more specific licenses, training, and compliancy with registrations and permits for the transport of medical waste.

How do People Get Rid of Medical Waste at Home?

Most medical waste generated at home consists of syringes and used needles. There are many ways people can properly dispose of these used “sharps”. You can check with your local county health department and ask if there is a drop off service. You can buy sharps containers at most pharmacies or pharmacies located in national chain stores and then simply take them to a collection site located within your community. There are services that provide containers to contain the used needles and when the container is nearly full, it is sealed closed and mailed back to the company for treatment and disposal. Also, people can create their own sharps container at home by using a hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or tightly secured lid. The sharps are placed in the container, a bleach and water solution are added, the container is sealed, labeled, and bagged then discarded with the rest of the garbage, never recycled.

Medical Waste by State

The below is cited from the EnvCAP (Environmental Compliance Assistance Platform) website. The goal of the EnvCAP is to help industries comply with environmental regulations.

Minnesota. In Minnesota, medical waste is called infectious waste and defined aswaste originating from the diagnosis, care, or treatment of a person or animal that has been or may have been exposed to a contagious or infectious disease. 

Infectious waste, also called biohazardous or red bag waste, cannot be placed in the normal trash for disposal at a landfill or industrial burner. Infectious waste must be segregated and go through a decontamination process before it is considered safe for routine handling as a solid waste.

For this reason, infectious waste is routinely collected in special containers – sharps containers and red bags. After decontamination, the waste can be handled by haulers, storage, treatment, and disposal facilities that have submitted solid waste management plans to the MPCA according to Minnesota Solid Waste Rules. The management plans address packaging and labeling, handling and segregation, storage, transportation, spill response, treatment, and disposal.

Unless the materials have been rendered noninfectious by procedures approved by the state commissioner of health, infectious waste includes:

Iowa. In Iowa, medical waste is called infectious waste. infectious waste can potentially be considered a “special waste,” and is managed by the state’s solid waste department. Special waste is any industrial process waste, pollution control waste, or toxic waste which presents a threat to human health or the environment or a waste with inherent properties which make the disposal of the waste in a sanitary landfill difficult to manage. Infectious waste is waste that is infectious, including but not limited to the following:

Missouri. In Missouri medical waste is referred to as Infectious medical waste. IMW is waste capable of producing an infectious disease because it contains pathogens of sufficient virulence and quantity so that exposure to the waste by a susceptible human host could result in an infectious disease.  These wastes include isolation wastes, cultures and stocks of etiologic agents, blood and blood products, pathological wastes, other contaminated wastes from surgery and autopsy, contaminated laboratory wastes, sharps, dialysis unit wastes, discarded biological materials known or suspected to be infectious; provided, however, infectious waste does not include waste treated to MDNR specifications.

An Infectious medical waste generator is any single office (doctor’s office, dentist’s office, and the like) or facility (hospital, nursing home, mortuary, and the like), whose act or process first causes an infectious waste.  A small quantity generator (SQG) of infectious waste is defined as a generator of 100 kilograms (approximately 220 pounds) or less of infectious waste per month.  A transfer station permitted as an infectious waste processing facility becomes the generator when the infectious waste is transported for further processing.

Infectious medical waste includes the following wastes:

Tennessee. In Tennessee, medical waste is considered a Special Waste, which is a solid waste that is either difficult or dangerous to manage and may include. Medical waste means the following solid wastes:

Kentucky. Kentucky does not have specific environmental regulations applicable to medical/infectious wastes generated at healthcare facilities except for air quality regulations pertaining to medical waste incineration.  The Division for Air Quality requires that all medical waste incinerators obtain a special permit prior to conducting medical waste incineration.

HealthCare Regulations

Kentucky hospital regulations cover certain aspects of medical waste, as follows:

“A sharp waste container shall be incinerated on or off site or shall be rendered nonhazardous.” (Hospital Operations and Services Regulation 902 KAR 20:016 Section 3(10) (g) 3).

“The containers of sharp wastes shall either be incinerated on or off site or be rendered nonhazardous by a technology of equal or superior efficacy, which is approved by both the Cabinet for Human Resources and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet.” Nursing Facility Operations and Services Regulation 902 KAR 20:300 Section 6 (7) (b) 4 c.

Ohio. In Ohio Medical Waste is called “Infectious wastes” includes all the following substances or categories of substances:

Indiana. In Indiana medical waste is called “Infectious waste” and means waste that epidemiologic evidence indicates is capable of transmitting a dangerous communicable disease. The term includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Illinois. In Illinois medical waste is called Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW). Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW) is waste generated in connection with the diagnosis, treatment (i.e., provision of medical services), or immunization of human beings or animals; research pertaining to the provision of medical services; or the provision or testing of biologicals.

Michigan. In Michigan medical waste is called “Medical waste” and means any of the following that are not generated from a household, a farm operation or other agricultural business, a home for the aged, or a home health care agency.

Wisconsin. In Wisconsin medical waste is called “Infectious Medical Waste” The following solid wastes are presumed to be infectious waste unless methods of testing which are generally accepted by the medical profession demonstrate that the waste is not infectious:

Solid wastes presumed not to be infectious wastes include the following:

Why Healthcare Waste Management?

As you can see with the many different definitions, regulations, and laws on every level, local, state, and federal with various agencies DOT, EPA, OSHA, FDA, and CDC medical waste disposal can get overwhelming quickly.

Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we have been providing medical waste services for decades, we directly service multiple states, have our own treatment plants, and service thousands of customers.

Because we own our own treatment plants, we must stay abreast of the latest regulations concerning medical waste, from pickup to disposal, it is our business, to take care of your business reducing waste, risk, and cost. Contact Healthcare Waste Management Today at 888-427-5797


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