In the 1980s beaches were being littered with disposed syringes, medications, and other healthcare-related waste. The need for proper medical waste removal was realized. Medical waste disposal is primarily regulated at the state level. Federal laws dictated the safety and efficacy of how each state implements waste removal, disposal, and treatment to prevent pollution and the spread of infection.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are implemented by EPA and are in place to protect the environment, conserve resources, and reduce the amount of waste being generated. RCRA gave the first regulations for the management of hazardous waste. This comprised the identification of solid and hazardous wastes, standards for generators of hazardous waste, standards for transporters of hazardous waste, and standards for hazardous waste disposal facilities.
We need to look at how medical waste is treated in terms of pollution beyond improper disposal. According to the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, medical incinerators were found to be significant sources of airborne mercury. Before 1997, over 90 percent of potentially infectious medical waste was incinerated. In 1994 the EPA’s Draft Dioxin Reassessment identified medical waste incineration as the single largest source of dioxin air pollution. Since then, the EPA shaped stringent emission standards for medical waste incinerators with the help of significant concerns over poor air quality.
Incineration is highly effective as a method to treat medical waste and it is still an acceptable treatment alternative in many states. The question remains about pollution and air quality.
85 percent of the total medical waste stream in hospitals consists of the same mixture of discarded plastic, paper, metal, glass and food waste that is found in ordinary household waste. The information provided by Greenpeace. The remaining 15 % is defined as infectious, which must be sterilized and treated before final disposal.
An estimated 45 % of infectious medical equipment from Western hospitals is reused via autoclaving. Autoclaving is a procedure that steam sterilizes infectious waste, and it allows for the reuse or recycling of medical equipment.
Precisely how much pollution occurs in the U.S. is unknown, but minimizing what is incinerated is the goal for healthcare facilities. Medical waste generators can decrease the quantity of PVC plastics, products, and packaging that are going to burning. Plastics should also be recycled to at least extent possible. Besides autoclaving, other treatment alternatives include hydropulping, chemical treatment, microwave, and irradiation.
Glycon LLC is committed to preserving the environment through our safe and effective medical waste disposal solutions. 90 percent of our medical waste is autoclaved, and we can provide the necessary equipment for proper segregation, labeling, and discarding, which is integral to safe disposal.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can reduce medical waste in your facility and do your part to decrease medical waste pollution.