Card image cap
Medical waste: what to do with it?

According to a recent report published by MarketsandMarkets, medical waste management market costs are expected to increase from $10.3 billion in 2015 to $13.3 billion in 2020. Appropriate waste management would likely have a huge impact on those numbers. Not to mention the effect it would have on the environment.

“The key is ensuring proper waste disposal is easy to follow and that staff are properly trained,” says Selin Hoboy, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs at medical waste disposal company Stericycle, Inc. “Equally important is top down management support and reinforcement.”

Here are nine ways to reduce medical waste, courtesy of Hoboy:

  1. Know your state laws

You need to be familiar with state regulations regarding medical waste so you’ll know what is considered “regulated medical waste” (waste that is contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious material) versus other types of waste.

  1. Develop a formal waste management plan

Your plan should include how to properly manage regulated medical waste. Share your plan’s goals with staff so that everyone is on the same page. Review your plan at least annually for potential policy or process changes. Provide staff educating at orientation, periodically thereafter and when policy or process revisions are made.

  1. When possible, use reusable products in place of single-use products

For example, some sharps containers and certain medical instruments can be disinfected and reused. Check to see if products are reusable before buying. Also, review your state regulations and the product manufacturer instructions to see if products can be used more than once.

  1. Use small medical waste containers in patient rooms

Larger containers make it easy for patients and staff to use them as regular trash bins. When possible, don’t make medical waste containers accessible to anyone but staff. 

  1. Separate “red bag waste” containers from solid waste collection containers

It is easy for staff to drop items in the wrong bin when they are side by side.

  1. Color code containers to help ensure appropriate separation of wastes.

For example, use red containers for “red bag waste” and green containers for recycling.

  1. Post signage

Place signs throughout the facility that describe the type of waste that can be put into each container. “Visual reminders and pictograms help your staff and patients understand your policies better and do the right thing every time,” Hoboy says.

  1. Make sure pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy agents are being disposed of appropriately

Educate staff on the importance of not putting unused pharmaceuticals or bulk or trace chemotherapy waste in red medical waste bags. Those items should be separated for proper treatment (e.g. incineration) according to state regulations.

  1. Conduct waste audits

Do periodic spot checks to see if medical waste is being disposed of correctly and that your plan is being followed. Share your findings with staff and provide retraining, if necessary.

Category Cloud

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter