Many items used in a healthcare facility are considered medical waste, but what about saline bags?

There are plenty of waste items under the medical waste umbrella that are obviously infectious waste, but there are others that fall into a gray area and it can be confusing as to how to dispose of them.  While we know that sharps and sharps-related waste go into a sharps container, and infectious waste goes into red bags or other heavy-duty containers, what are saline bags considered and which container do they go in? Let’s take a look.

Saline bags: the basics

Saline bags are also sometimes referred to as an IV, or a “drip.”  Fluids in a plastic bag flow through a tube and into your body.  The most commonly used fluid is saline, which is a salt solution of purified water.  Normal saline approximates the ratio of salt to water that exists naturally in the human body.

Saline administration

To administer IV rehydration, a doctor or nurse will insert an IV line into a vein in the arm.  This IV line will consist of a tube with a needle on one end.  The other end of the line will be connected to a bag of fluids, which is then delivered to the body.  Intravenous therapy is considered one of the most effective ways to get fluid to a patient, be it blood, water, or medicine.

So, where does the waste go?

The needle and tubing are instruments that have come in contact with blood and blood products, which under OSHA are considered infectious waste.  The needle will go into an approved sharps container with the tubing placed in red bag waste.  The actual saline bag, however, is not considered infectious waste.

IV bags that contain only saline or electrolyte solution are not hazardous or pharmaceutical waste.  The fluids can be disposed of down the drain, and the IV bag can be placed in regular or recycled waste containers.

There is one exception!

IV bags that have been contaminated with chemotherapeutic agents are considered infectious/medical waste and will have to be disposed of according to local state and federal laws.

If you’re unsure of a specific item and whether it is considered medical or infectious waste, always check with your local governing agents and be sure to have a medical waste disposal plan in place.

Also, make sure that any patient information is properly destroyed before disposing of the saline bag.  Disposing patient information in the regular trash could be a HIPAA violation and incur hefty fines.

Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.

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