3 Ways to Effectively Manage Your Medical Waste

All of the items that are used in healthcare must be disposed of correctly in a way that is environmentally safe and also responsible. This includes syringes, needles, and expired pills.

There are a lot of used syringes, dirty needles, pharmaceutical waste such as expired or contaminated drugs, and even infectious waste such as blood, used dressings, and bacterial cultures. Of course, all these things pose massive health and contamination risks and if they’re not disposed of properly, they can lead to even bigger health and environmental risks.

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Luckily, we have some information that will undoubtedly help you. Here are three effective ways to manage your medical waste.

1. Correct disposal

Correct disposal means everything when it comes to keeping our environment safe and healthy, which is our priority. Before items are disposed of, they must go through a thorough treatment process to minimise health threats and reduce damage to our environment.

The terms of treatment realistically depend on the facilities, but the most common terms of medical waste treatment are:

  • Steam sterilisation: A great decontamination method that is simple but highly effective. Pressurised steam operates at a high temperature and kills off microorganisms.
  • Mechanical treatment: Grinding/shredding.
  • Chemical treatment: The use of disinfectants.

It is of the utmost importance that all staff are educated on the significance of disposal of medical waste correctly.

2. Develop a plan

Developing a plan could be considered one of the most important things when it comes to the management of medical waste. Every great facility will have an effective and proper plan in place regarding the management of their medical waste. The responsibilities and roles of each member as well as the waste management plan should be laid out as soon as possible with hospitals and will usually be the first thing you learn.

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It is also of great importance that every staff member understands knows how much waste is generated and to what extent it does or does not fluctuate. It is up to the hospital to effectively teach this to their staff.

3. Introduce reusable items

Surprisingly, one of the worst ways to deal with waste items is to dispose of them. The most effective way to avoid waste is to not produce it in the first place. Understandably, waste is unavoidable in some circumstances, however, where possible it should be avoided.

A big way to make a change is to make the switch to reusable products where it is possible. Opting for greener alternatives could make the biggest difference to the environment and hospitals themselves. It is insanely easy to use reusable items in hospitals and it will be a godsend to the environment should hospitals consider reusable items.

In some cases, hospitals already use reusable products but for the sake of patient safety, some things just simply can’t be reusable. For example, any sharps containers and some specific medical instruments can actually be reusable! They will simply need to be sanitised and disinfected before/after each use and voila!

Before buying a product, it is always a good idea to check if it may be reusable. This will not only save money, but it will also save medical waste.

It is important to take care when disposing of your medical waste, see how to do it here.

Incineration of Medical Waste: An Introduction

Incineration is a thermal process that transforms medical wastes into inorganic, incombustible matter thus leading to significant reduction in waste volume and weight. The main purpose of any medical waste incinerator is to eliminate pathogens from waste and reduce the waste to ashes. However, certain types of medical wastes, such as pharmaceutical or chemical wastes, require higher temperatures for complete destruction.

Medical waste incinerators typically operate at high temperatures between 900 and 1200°C. Developing countries of Asia and Africa usually use low-cost, high-temperature incinerators of simple design for stabilization of healthcare wastes. The most reliable and predominant medical waste incineration technology is pyrolytic incineration, also known as controlled air incineration or double-chamber incineration. The pyrolytic incinerator comprises a pyrolytic chamber and a post-combustion chamber.

Medical waste is thermally decomposed in the pyrolytic chamber through an oxygen-deficient, medium-temperature combustion process (800– 900°C), producing solid ashes and gases. The gases produced in the pyrolytic chamber are burned at high temperature (900– 1200°C) by a fuel burner in the post-combustion chamber, using an excess of air to minimize smoke and odours.

Small-scale decentralized incinerators used in hospitals, of capacity 200–1000kg/day, are operated on demand in developing countries, such as India. On the other hand, off-site regional facilities have large-scale incinerators of capacity 1–8 tonnes/day, operating continuously and equipped with automatic loading and de-ashing devices. In recent years, mobile incinerators are getting attraction in developing world as such units permit on-site waste treatment in hospitals and clinics, thus avoiding the need to transport infectious waste across the city.

However, the WHO policy paper of 2004 and the Stockholm Convention, has stressed the need to consider the risks associated with the incineration of healthcare waste in the form of particulate matter, heavy metals, acid gases, carbon monoxide, organic compounds, pathogens etc. In addition, leachable organic compounds, like dioxins and heavy metals, are usually present in bottom ash residues. Due to these factors, many industrialized countries are phasing out healthcare waste incinerators and exploring technologies that do not produce any dioxins. Countries like United States, Ireland, Portugal, Canada and Germany have completely shut down or put a moratorium on medical waste incinerators.