What Happens to Medical Waste Eventually?

What Happens To Medical Waste?

Every day, a relatively large amount of potentially infectious and hazardous waste is generated in health care organizations like hospitals and other facilities around the world.  This bio-medical waste must be carefully treated and disposed of in order to avoid contamination and the spread of infectious pathogens. That is why many health facilities and hospitals alike are supposed to follow very strict procedures when collecting, disinfecting and disposing of the medical waste.

But what happens to medical waste once it leaves the facility?

Nontoxic Waste

The simplest nontoxic waste — paper trash, food scraps and items like those plastic thermometer caps and medicine packaging are first sorted to see if anything can be recycled and reused. For instance, lead (in protective clothing) and silver (in X-ray films) can be recycled and reused, along with materials such as cardboard and high-quality office paper.  After that is done, the leftover waste goes into the landfill just like other ordinary trash. Such waste has no risk of being a health hazard and therefore the treatment and disposal methods for it are fairly basic.

Infectious Waste

Next in line is what hospitals call ‘infectious’ waste – blood, body fluids, needles, blades and laboratory cultures. Such waste is collected separately and placed inside specially marked plastic tubs that are lined with red bags to prevent leakage due to piercing. When the tubs are full, they’re moved to a biohazard room for storage until they can be picked up for final disposal.

Pathological Waste

Another category of medical waste is called pathological waste – this includes organs and other body parts that have been removed from patients as well as waste from chemotherapy, including the bags that held drugs that were dispensed intravenously. This waste is collected in separate containers and moved to a storage room for the next step of the process.

Once the waste has been appropriately collected and segregated, the tubs containing the pathological waste are picked-up in special covered vans to transport them to the hospital’s waste management counterparts, who will then decontaminate the waste using one of the following methods:

  • Incineration Technology – employs combustion of waste through thermal energy, converting the waste into inert material and gases.
  • Autoclaving – uses steam at high temperatures to penetrate through the waste material and kill all the micro-organisms present in the waste.
  • Microwave Irradiation – generates high frequency waves that cause the particles within the waste material to vibrate, generating heat from within, killing all pathogens.
  • Plasma Pyrolysis – an environmentally friendly process that converts waste into reusable byproducts through the intense heat generated by the plasma.

Finally, the waste can then be disposed of in landfills along with other regular solid waste. These days, healthcare facilities are also employing Waste Management Committees who set policies and procedures to be followed and monitored to ensure proper medical waste disposal as well as compliance with legal policies.


Author Bio

Erich Lawson is passionate about saving environment by effective recycling. He has written a wide array of articles on how modern recycling equipment can be used by industries to reduce monthly garbage bills and increase recycling revenue. You can learn more about environment savings techniques by visiting Northern California Compactors, Inc blog.

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