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How Medical Waste is Disposed

February 23, 2022

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How Medical Waste is Disposed

How Medical Waste is Disposed. Medical waste is mostly a byproduct of the healthcare industry, and as such, it’s important to dispose of it in a safe manner. Medical waste can be very dangerous for the environment and for humans if not disposed of properly. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to safely dispose of medical waste. Here, we explore different methods for disposing of medical waste, including autoclaving and microwaving. We will also provide tips on how you can limit these types of waste from being created in the first place.

What is Medical Waste?

What is medical waste? Medical waste includes anything created in connection with the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals. This includes things like needles, syringes, surgical instruments, bandages, laboratory specimens (like organs), and contaminated items from the operation room.

Types of Medical Waste

Medical waste is a broad term that encompasses many types of waste. Each of the medical waste types has specific rules for handling, labeling, storage, and destruction prior to being placed in a safe landfill.

Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal

Each type of medical waste must comply with specific rules for handling, storage, treatment, and disposal. The guidelines are established by the individual states in conjunction with the various federal agencies.

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.

Preventing Medical Waste

One of the best ways to prevent medical waste is by proper segregation of your waste, often it is easy to just put packaging in the regulated medical waste bin, but in fact if it has not been contaminated that is just regular solid waste. It is estimated that classifying normal waste as regulated medical waste costs U.S. hospitals millions of dollars a year in excess spending.  You may also want to invest in a medical waste disposal service if your facility generates substantial amounts of medical waste.

Benefits of Using Healthcare Waste Management

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. 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.

As a premier medical waste management company servicing ten states in the Midwest, we bring decades of experience and assurance for our clients that are cost-effective and budget conscious:

In today’s world that involves so many regulations and guidelines, it makes sense to have peace of mind and use Healthcare Waste Management for your medical waste disposal needs.

Contact Healthcare Waste Management today for all of your medical waste, compliance training, or secure document destruction needs. We provide free quotes within minutes, with just a few bits of information. The frequency of your service needs, the volume of the waste being picked up, types of waste, and your location. Call Today at 888-427-5797


Healthcare Environmental Resource Center – Types of Regulated Medical Waste. Accessed 2-21-22.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Infection Control. Accessed 2-21-22.

OSHA 1910.1030 – Bloodborne pathogens. Standards, Occupational Safety.   Accessed 2-21-22.

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