Traditional Medical Waste Treatments
Medical Waste Generators
Waste generators were broken down into two categories: Small Quantity Generators (SQG) and Large Quantity Generators (LQG). This was necessary to identify their waste and provide guidelines and regulations adequately.
After determining the type of generator, the Study analyzed the composition of the generated medical waste. “Sharps wastes constituted the largest volume of medical waste. The next highest waste type is blood and body fluids followed by the other categories mentioned previously. It was necessary to determine what these generators were putting out and how to define and categorize the waste stream.
Defining Infectious Waste
The regulatory agencies are not in complete agreement when defining medical waste. One can conclude from the recommendations that the following are classified as infectious waste: “human blood and blood products, cultures and stocks of infectious agents, pathological wastes, contaminated sharps, contaminated laboratory wastes, contaminated waste from patient care, discarded biologicals, contaminated animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding, contaminated equipment and miscellaneous infectious wastes” (34 Reinhardt).
Treatment, Storage, and Transportation
It is important to note that the treatment of medical waste varies based on the type of waste. Medical waste is also very likely to undergo more than one process. Hospitals and doctors, for example, generate, treat and store waste. They use specific containers and drums for storing and transporting waste to off-site treatment locations. Red bags are steam sterilized using specific tags, which change color. The tags identify sterilized red bags from an infectious red bag. This provides some reassurance for the sanitation workers.
Once the waste is disinfected, the waste is stored and prepared for transportation. Licensed haulers are contracted to provide the service of picking up medical waste.
Advantages and Disadvantage
The process of incineration provides the advantage of volume reduction as well as the ability to dispose of recognizable waste and sharps. On-site incinerators provide a quick and easy way of disposing medical waste. The disadvantage lies in incinerator emissions. These emissions may contain toxic gases.
Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate medical waste management under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary authority for regulating workplace standards and employee health and safety. Other government agencies such as health & safety, toxic substance control agency, and sanitation department are responsible for requiring medical waste generators to comply with the necessary procedures and documentation required by law.
Treating Sharps Waste
Sharps waste comprises syringes, needles, lancets, broken glass and any other materials that can pierce the skin. The combination of contamination with pathogens and the ability to break through the skin’s protection make them one of the most dangerous wastes produced in healthcare.
On the other hand, reuse of syringes causes millions of infections each year, with HIV, hepatitis and bacterial infections. As a result, WHO recommends the use of auto-disable syringes during vaccination programs. However, these can still cause injury, and 10-20% of needle stick injuries happen during disposal, making proper management essential.
Ways to prevent needle reuse
- Needle cutters- also called hub cutters- can prevent reuse and make treatment and disposal safer and easier. Through this, it cuts off the needle and the end of the syringe, preventing usability;
- In addition, technologies are available for autoclave and disinfecting sharps. Some waste treatment companies provide reusable sharps containers. You can sterilize it with their contents and return to use;
- Local metalworkers can create reusable containers from aluminum to suit the needs of each situation; and
- Lastly, needle removal or shredding can make syringes made from high-grade plastic disinfected and non-reusable