Reduce, recycle, reuse doesn’t always apply to the medical waste field.
Reuse. Reduce. Recycle. That is the EPA’s slogan for protecting our environment, but this adage doesn’t always apply to the medical waste arena.
The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 clearly defines items that fall under this category, including potentially infectious materials. Medical waste has a different set of instructions when it comes to disposal and reusing because of its very nature.
Whereas recycling items is certainly greener for the planet, medical waste is a bit of a gray area. Classically, medical waste is sterilized and after it disposed in a sanitary landfill. Wildlife can still access this medical waste and water can still leak into the ground, so it still poses as an environmental matter.
One of the more discussed topics in the medical waste removal field is how to process single-use medical devices and their ability to be repurposed, not so much recycled.
The term itself is a bit of a misnomer. To label a device as single-use is at the sole discretion of the producer. The FDA doesn’t exactly make it much clearer what constitutes a single-use device. An organization that reuses a single-use device should be able to show that the device can be properly cleaned and sterilized. It also should show that the physical characteristics or quality of the device will not be compromised, and that the device stays safe and effective for the intended clinical use.
Reprocessing is severely an economic choice. Besides being just as safe as original equipment, reprocessing keeps tons of medical waste from filling community landfills and saves money for local hospitals. All evidence shows that single-use devices reprocessed in accordance with FDA’s requirements are safe and effective.
Other items that can easily be recycled are plastic items, such as IV bags, which can be melted, sterilized, and made a new.