Is food really considered medical waste? At the airport, maybe…

Regulations regarding medical waste disposal are developed and administered by state agencies, but federal agencies have paved the way for many of the local laws.  In medical waste disposal, there are some gray areas and some rather obscure disposal directives.

Here’s where it can get a little weird and interesting …

Nicotine Patches

Nicotine itself is a chemical on the discarded chemicals list.  When a product with nicotine, or a nicotine salt, as the sole-active ingredient is discarded or not used for its intended purpose, it is considered a RCRA hazardous waste.  Take for example the nicotine patch: if the patch is opened and unused, the patch and its wrapper are considered hazardous waste.  If the patch is used, it has been used for its intended purpose so it is no longer RCRA hazardous waste.

Feminine Hygiene Products

While feminine hygiene products are not considered medical waste, it begs the question: when they are handled by another person, like personnel emptying the bathroom trash, does OSHA consider this medical waste? In this situation, wouldn’t the employee be exposed to potential bloodborne pathogens?

OSHA has had several requests about feminine hygiene products, and has provided the following answer:

“OSHA does not generally consider discarded feminine hygiene products, used to absorb menstrual flow, to fall within the definition of regulated waste. The intended function of products such as sanitary napkins is to absorb and contain blood; the absorbent material of which they are composed would, under most circumstances, prevent the release of liquid or semi-liquid blood or the flaking off of dried blood.”

E-cigarettes Hazardous Waste?

E-cigarette cartridges that contain flavored nicotine solution are typically tossed by the user, but without proper hazardous waste disposal, cartridges with residual solution pose a threat to domestic pets and wildlife.  The residual nicotine can easily find its way into the environment, and even to children, should they find the expended cartridges and play with them.

On the consumer level, many e-cigarette manufacturers and vendors nowadays offer recycling programs, with the incentive of discounted or free products for so many “vapes” returned for reclamation.

Food As Medical Waste?

Did you know that the Orlando International Airport and Orlando-Sanford International Airport treat uneaten scraps of food as medical waste?  This type of trash cannot be tossed into a dumpster with other garbage.  This garbage must actually be treated because it falls under two jurisdictions: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  This is to prevent the spread of agricultural or animal disease into the U.S.

While the concern is valid, it becomes an additional set of regulations for airport officials and makes for one rather interesting medical waste disposal regulation.

Curious as to whether an item you’re using is considered hazardous waste? Red Bags has the 411 on all things medical waste and how to dispose of them properly.

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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