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Healthcare Waste Management and Medical Waste

October 6, 2021

Home » Medical Waste » Healthcare Waste Management and Medical Waste

Healthcare Waste Management and Medical Waste

Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we provide medical waste disposal services that include transporting, storing, and treating medical waste to make it non-infectious and have been providing these services for decades.

We service the Midwest and more, we service the following states for medical waste disposal services. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.

At Healthcare Waste Management, we believe in being the only company you will ever need. From medical waste disposal services, to shredding and compliance training we offer it all.

We can even offer bulk cardboard bale recycling services; we believe in being environmentally friendly to the safest extent possible.

When it comes to a true Healthcare Waste Management Company there are a few things to look for, some of these things you might just expect it to be the case, but in a lot of circumstances you will soon figure out it is not what you thought at all.

To start with a true service provider provides the actual service of medical waste pickup. Some companies only own the paperwork for your contract, and then hire a local medical waste company to service your account. In this situation the company that is actually picking up your waste is doing it for less money than you are paying the company you contracted with.

So, the first thing you will want to ask is what is your company name, and then what is the name of the company that will be picking up my medical waste.

Next you will want to ask if the employees picking up my waste will be direct W2 employees of yours? If the company you contract with does not directly employ the drivers how much control do you think they have over missed pickups, and customer service-related issues?

Next you will want to ask if they own the trucks that will be coming to your facility to haul the medical waste. And do they own multiple trucks? This goes to customer service-related issues again, if they do not own the trucks, or maintain them, how can they re-route them if needed, or provide a backup truck if one has a flat tire or some other mechanical issue.

Lastly, you will want to ask if they own the treatment plants that will make your medical waste non-infectious? If they do not own the medical waste treatment plants that means they are paying another company to treat your medical waste and must include that expense in your bill.

A Healthcare Waste Management company will directly employ the drivers, own multiple trucks, and own the facilities to treat your medical waste. When you hire a medical waste disposal company, it is important to know what type of company you are dealing with.

There are four different types of companies one could encounter when looking for medical waste disposal services, those are.

Lead Generators – they simply sell your information to multiple or the highest bidder.

Brookers – They will not service your account directly; they make money from the markup of what they pay the company that does service your account and what they charge you.

Haulers – A Hauler will own the truck, employ the drivers but not own the facilities that treat medical waste. They must take the waste to a third-party treatment facility and pay them to destroy your waste. With haulers the paperwork can be delayed because of this process.

Healthcare Waste Management Company – This is what most customers think they are getting when they hire a service of this nature. In most cases they are dealing with one of the companies above, not a true healthcare waste management company. This, however, is the type of healthcare waste management company you want to be working with. This type of company has invested in their company to take care of your facility. They often offer better pricing because they own the entire process from start to finish.

In some states like Indiana there are only four true Healthcare Waste Management Companies that can perform start to finish service. Pickup, Haul, and Treat your medical waste. That means in the entire state of Indiana there are only four approved Medical Waste Processors, we are one of the four. 

All About Medical Waste

Medical waste or Healthcare waste is any kind of waste containing infectious or potentially infectious materials. Discarded sharps are considered medical waste whether they are contaminated or not, due to the possibility of being contaminated with blood and their propensity to cause injury when not properly contained and disposed.

Examples of infectious medical waste include discarded blood, sharps, unwanted microbiological cultures and stocks, identifiable body parts including those because of amputation, other human or animal tissue, used bandages and dressings, discarded gloves, other medical supplies that may have been in contact with blood and body fluids, and laboratory waste that exhibits those characteristics. Sharps waste includes potentially contaminated used and unused discarded needles, scalpels, lancets, and other devices capable of penetrating skin.

Medical waste is generated from medical sources and activities, such as the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases. Common generators of medical waste include hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, emergency medical services, medical research laboratories, offices of physicians, dentists, veterinarians, home health care and morgues or funeral homes. However, medical waste can also be generated in places like medical spas, body piercing shops, and tattoo parlors.

Medical waste is distinct from normal trash or general waste, and differs from other types of hazardous waste, such as chemical, radioactive, universal, or industrial waste. Medical facilities also generate waste with hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials. While such wastes are normally not infectious under the medical waste definition, they require proper disposal. Some wastes are considered multi-hazardous.

Disposal of medical waste is an environmental concern, as many medical wastes are classified as infectious or biohazardous and could potentially lead to the spread of infectious disease. The most common danger for humans is infection which also affects other living organisms in the region. Therefore, medical waste must be treated differently than general waste.

Studies have shown the public is not likely to be adversely affected by medical waste generated in the traditional healthcare setting. They found, however, that medical waste from those settings may pose an injury and exposure risks via occupational contact with medical waste for doctors, nurses, and janitorial, laundry, and refuse workers. There is, however, opportunities for the public to come into contact medical waste, such as needles used illicitly outside healthcare settings (drugs), or biomedical waste generated via home health care.

Medical Waste Management

Medical Waste Management is best left to professional medical waste disposal companies who transport, store, and treat medical waste every day. Medical waste must be properly managed and disposed of to protect the environment, public, and workers, especially those in a healthcare and sanitation setting who are at risk of exposure to medical waste as an occupational hazard. Steps in the management of medical waste include generation, accumulation, handling, storage, treatment, transport, and disposal.

Medical Waste Generation and Storage

Medical waste should be collected in containers that are leak-proof and strong enough to prevent breakage during handling. Medical waste containers are marked with a biohazard symbol and carry a UN number identifying the waste. The container, marking, and labels are often red.

Storage refers to keeping the waste until it is treated or transported off-site for treatment and disposal. State regulatory agencies may limit the time for which medical waste can remain onsite in storage. Handling is moving medical waste between the point of generation to storage locations, until it can be picked up by a medical waste disposal company. Workers who handle medical waste must be trained and follow OSHA CFR standard precautions.

Medical Waste Treatment

Medical waste treatment means to eliminate the waste’s hazards, and usually to make the waste unrecognizable. Treatment should render the waste safe for subsequent handling and disposal. There are several treatment methods that can accomplish this. It includes segregating the medical waste, for proper treatment. Certain medical waste must be incinerated, while most medical waste can be autoclaved or treated with alternative methods that are more environmentally friendly than incineration. 

An autoclave uses steam and pressure to sterilize the waste or reduce its microbiological load to a level at which it may be safely disposed of. Many healthcare facilities routinely use an autoclave to sterilize medical devices. If the same autoclave is used to sterilize supplies and treat biomedical waste, administrative controls must be used to prevent the waste operations from contaminating the supplies. Effective administrative controls include operator training, strict procedures, and separate times and space for processing medical waste.

Microwave disinfection can also be employed for treatment of medical wastes. Microwave irradiation is a type of non-contact heating technologies for disinfection. Microwave chemistry is based on efficient heating of materials by microwave dielectric heating effects. When exposed to microwave frequencies, the dipoles of the water molecules present in cells re-align with the applied electric field. As the field oscillates, the dipoles attempt to realign itself with the alternating electric field and in this process, energy is lost in the form of heat through molecular friction and dielectric loss.

Microwave disinfection is a recently developed technology which provides advantage over old existing technologies of autoclaves as microwave-based disinfection has less cycle time, power consumption and it requires minimal usage of water and consumables as compared to autoclaves.

For liquids and small quantities, a 1–10% solution of bleach can be used to disinfect biomedical waste. Solutions of sodium hydroxide and other chemical disinfectants may also be used, depending on the waste’s characteristics. Other treatment methods include heat, alkaline digesters, and the use of microwaves.

For autoclaves and microwave systems, a shredder may be used as a final treatment step to render the waste unrecognizable. Some autoclaves have built in shredders.

Medical Waste History

In 1988 the U.S. federal government passed The Medical Waste Tracking Act which allowed the EPA to establish rules for management of medical waste in some parts of the country. After the Act expired in 1991, responsibility to regulate and pass laws concerning the disposal of medical waste returned to the individual states. The states vary in their regulations from none to very strict.

In addition to a pickup service by a medical waste disposal company for off-site treatment, a mail-back disposal option maybe available. This allows generators of small medical waste amounts to ship it to the disposal company. Often referred to as a mail back sharps program. The waste is shipped through the U.S. postal service. While available in all 50 U.S. states, mail-back medical waste disposal is limited by very strict postal regulations. Collection containers must comply with FDA requirements, while shipping containers must be approved by the postal service for use.

Medical Waste Disposal Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

Reusable medical waste containers and sharps containers, reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills.

There are several Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to incineration, those include chemical, irradiative, and biological. The main purpose of the treatment technology is to decontaminate waste by destroying pathogens. Modern technology invented mechanics that would allow medical professionals and hospitals to dispose medical waste in an environmentally friendly way, such as: autoclaving, plasma pyrolysis, gasification, chemical methods, and microwave irradiation. These alternatives are also highly versatile and can be used for all different types of waste.

An autoclave is like a pressure cooker, it uses high-temperature steam to penetrate waste material and kill microorganisms. Autoclave treatment has been recommended for microbiology and biotechnology waste, waste sharps, soiled and solid wastes. Microwave irradiation is based on the principle of generation of high frequency waves. These waves cause the particles within the waste material to vibrate, generating heat and killing the pathogens from within. A simple yet effective method is chemical disinfection: 1% hypochlorite can kill thriving bacteria. Plasma pyrolysis is an environment-friendly mechanism, which converts organic waste into commercially useful byproducts. The intense heat generated by the plasma enables it to dispose all types of waste including municipal solid waste, medical waste, and hazardous waste in a safe and reliable manner.

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