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Learn What Really Happens With Biohazardous Waste

Every time you make a trip to the hospital, you create medical waste. Even if you do not get a shot or have blood drawn, the tongue depressor and other items that come in contact with your body’s fluids can be considered biohazardous.

How is medical waste collected?

In years past, this waste was simply collected in special plastic boxes and bags and then disposed of just like normal trash. It was eventually found that this was not only not safe for the environment but it was also not safe for the refuse workers or the general population who may come in contact with this dangerous waste.

Thanks to recent regulations, today biohazard waste disposal companies must come to pick up the medical waste and take it to a treatment facility to be rendered safe and non-hazardous.

The red bags that you see in your doctor’s office are used to collect any waste that is soft and cannot penetrate the shell of the bag. Anything that could poke through the bags, such as needles, is collected in red hard plastic boxes that cannot be pierced by the sharp objects. It is very important that waste ends up in the proper container so as to keep everyone safe.

The waste is then put in a special area where a medical waste services company picks it up and takes it back to their facility. Here the waste is sorted through to remove any items that can be sent to a recycling center after it has been sterilized.

How is biohazard waste made safe?

Biohazardous waste is made safe through a sterilization process. Waste that cannot be recycled, like gauze or needles, still needs to be made sanitary and non-hazardous before it can be thrown away in a dump or landfill. This is usually done through the use of an autoclave which works by forcing air out of the unit and steaming the items at an intensely high heat. The temperature is so high that no bacteria can survive and thus the items are deemed safe for recycling or disposal.

After all the bacteria is removed by the autoclave process, the waste can then be disposed of in the normal manner.

So what happens with biohazardous waste once it’s placed in the container?

After the waste is made safe by the autoclave process, the waste can then be disposed of in the normal manner. There are some items, such as plastic items, which are sanitized by being melted down and then are sent to a recycling center where they can be made into new products. It is important for the medical waste disposal company to ensure that any product that they send for recycling has first been rendered safe. Melting down the plastic before sending it for recycling is the best way to remove any bacteria that may be present.

Do only hospitals produce biohazardous waste?

Many people are under the assumption that biohazard waste disposal only needs to be handled at doctors’ offices and hospitals. There are more institutions that need this type waste disposal than the traditional ones.

Other faciliites that produce biohazard waste include:

  • Jails and prisons
  • Casinos
  • Gyms and pools
  • Animal hospitals and shelters
  • Veterinarian offices

Rather than letting the waste they produce end up in the regular trash and create a hazard, these places need to make sure their waste is properly disposed of.

Biohazardous waste must be handled properly according to the laws of the state and federal governments. For this reason, a biohazard waste disposal company is the only entity that can properly dispose of this type of waste. While medical waste was once simply placed in red bags or boxes and sent to the landfills, today this is not the case. The waste must be treated and rendered harmless before it can be recycled or thrown away.

Types of Biohazardous Waste and Disposal Procedures

Medical facilities must pay a great attention to one subcategory of medical waste—biohazardous waste. Biohazardous waste contains biological agents ( these agents may include bacteria, parasites, mold, viruses and other microorganisms that can harm health or lead to mortality in humans ) if it is released in the environment, it may pose risk to the population.

Biohazardous waste can be generated in many places inside your facility:

  • In pathology laboratories that analyze human or animal cultures for presence of pathogens.
  • In research labs that develop vaccines or study infection agents.
  • In operating/autopsy rooms where infected tissues are removed.
  • In patient rooms during patient care.

The Four Main Types of Biohazardous Waste

Solid Biohazardous Waste

You can find in it non-sharp items that came in contact with human or animal specimen materials, such as tissues or body fluids. These items include, but are not limited to petri dishes, pipettes, personal protective equipment, towels and linens and any type of dishes and containers. Note that sharps (scalpels, needles, etc.) are managed separately and so are easily breakable items like blood vials that could become sharp.

Collections and Disposal Procedures:

A designated container with a lid that is lined with an autocalve bag and marked with the biohazard symbol must collect this type of waste. Solid biohazardous waste can be decontaminated on site through autoclaving and disposed as regular medical waste through an approved landfill. It must be collected by your waste management company for proper decontamination and disposal in case it’s not decontaminated,

Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Liquid biohazardous waste consists mainly of blood and body fluids that could be contaminated with infectious agents. It can generally be considered and disposed of as solid biohazardous waste if the amount of liquid is less than 25 mls,

Collection and Disposal Procedures

All liquid biohazardous waste must be collected in leak-proof containers which don’t allow to tip over and which are labeled as biohazard. Secondary vessels, such as a tray or a bucket, can serve as an additional security measure as the primary liquid containers can be placed into them Most liquid waste can be disposed of by either chemical treatment with bleach or autoclaving on the liquid cycle. If the liquids contain a mixture of bodily fluid and chemical waste, make a call your medical waste removal provider for disposal recommendations.

Sharp Biohazardous Waste

Sharp biohazardous waste (simply sharps) is any medical device that is sharp enough to puncture skin (not to mention a plastic bag) and that had been in contact with potentially infectious biological material. Sharps include things like scalpels, needles, microscope slides, saw blades, broken glass vials, etc.

Collection and Disposal Procedures

There esixt some containers which are typically designated for collecting sharps. They are resistant to puncture, leak-proof and safe to handle. Irrespective of the biohazard status, all sharps should be collected in such containers, but biohazardous sharps will be labeled with an appropriate symbol. Local medical waste contractor picks up the contaminated sharps and disposes them. Plastic serological pipettes, while not sharp enough to puncture skin, can go through plastic bags, which is why they must be managed either as sharps or otherwise separated from the rest of the solid biohazardous waste.

Pathological Biohazardous Waste

Removed human (or animal) organs, tissues and body parts that have been exposed to infectious agents are considered to be pathological waste .

Collection and Disposal Procedures: Pathologica l waste should be double-bagged and stored similar to liquid waste in secondary containers in order to be able to avoid potential leaks,. It is generally disposed of through incineration or chemical treatment, but not autoclaving.

Do you have any questions about how to handle biohazardous waste in your facility? Do not hesitate to contact Glycon for advice, recommendations or medical waste collection services in Southern California ( Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Anaheim, Riverside, Irvine, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, San Diego…)

Biohazardous Medical Waste Containers

When it comes to medical waste, each subcategory has its own regulations for being properly disposed of. Biohazardous medical waste containers requires special attention to ensure it is properly disposed in compliance with state and federal regulations.
Four types of biohazardous wastes exist, each of which need to be treated uniquely when disposing.

Solid Biohazardous Waste

Solid biohazardous waste consists of non-sharp items that came in contact with human or animal specimen materials—such as tissues or bodily fluids. This might include petri dishes, personal protective equipment, and towels.
Container: This type of waste should be collected in a designated container with a lid that is lined with an autoclave bag and marked with the biohazard symbol.

Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Liquid biohazardous waste consists mainly of bloody and bodily fluids that could be contaminated with infectious agents.
Container: All liquid biohazardous waste must be collected in leak-proof containers secured against tipping over and labeled as biohazard. Additionally, the primary liquid containers can be placed in a secondary vessel—such as a tray or bucket.

Sharp Biohazardous Waste

Sharp biohazardous waste (also referred to as sharps) consists of any medical device  that came in contact with potentially infectious biological material that is sharp enough to puncture the skin.
Container: Sharps containers are designed to be puncture-resistant, leak-proof, and safe to handle. Regardless of biohazard status, all sharps are collected in such containers, but biohazardous sharps should be labeled with a corresponding symbol.

Pathological Biohazardous Waste

Pathological waste includes removed human (or animal) organs, tissues, and body parts that have been exposed to infectious agents.
Container: To prevent potential leaks, pathological waste should be double-bagged and stored similarly to liquid waste in secondary containers.

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How-To Properly Dispose Your Household Medical Waste

HOW-TO DISPOSE OF HOUSEHOLD MEDICAL WASTE

In today’s world we are very concerned with recycling, reusing, and preserving the environment. However, not everything that looks like it could be recycled can be! This includes medical waste. Not only can these materials not be recycled, but they also need to be disposed of differently depending on the kind of waste. Use this how-to guide to learn the process for disposing of various kinds of medical waste from leftover medicine to medicine dispensers, and medical devices.

Before we get to the how-to, we should spend a little time understanding why everything cannot just be recycled, thrown away, or flushed down the toilet. Let’s think about recycling first. Recycling used plastics such as syringes or needles runs the risk of introducing diseased bodily fluids into products we will use again. Now on to throwing medicines away. Some medicines are dangerous such as chemotherapy and others can be used by people with a drug dependency. We will learn what can and cannot be thrown away. Finally, flushing medicines down the drain does not eliminate them from the water supply. Water cleaning plants do not typically remove these medicines from the water supply.

HOW-TO DISPOSE SHARP MEDICAL WASTE

In a previous blog post, we looked at disposing medical facility sharp medical waste. Similar methods can be applied to household medical waste.
  • Securely wrap all sharp medical waste. This prevents potentially contaminated materials from puncturing the bag they are placed in.
  • Place these materials securely in a biohazards sharps container.
  • Only fill the container to the fill line. Filling the container past this line can lead to improper shutting and possible injury or contamination.
  • Return to medical recycling center or a pharmacy that participants in biohazard waste
  • Take another biohazards container home for future collections of sharp waste.

HOW-TO DISPOSE MEDICINES

 There are a few different options for disposing of medicine.
  • All medicine is available to be returned through the medicine take-back programs. These programs typically have announced weekends where collection sites will collect all unwanted medicine. If you have medicine that needs to be disposed prior to a collection date, you can contact your local medicine waste facility and find out your options.
  • These options can include a mail-back program or going to an authorized collection site.
  • If you do not take your medicine to a collection site, then read the label. Some medicines will have very specific directions for how to properly dispose of them. If this is the case, follow the directions on the package.
  • If you do not take the medicine to a collection site and the medicine does not have specific directions for disposal, then you can secure it in your trash.
  • Secure the medicine in a plastic bag with coffee grounds or kitty litter.
  • Throw this plastic bag into the trash.
  • If there is personally identifiable information on the bottle, scratch this out before throwing it away.
  • The final option for disposing of medicine is to flush it down the drain. We discussed in the beginning of this article that this can introduce medicine into our drinking water. While this is true, some medicines need to be flushed. Most medicines that need to be flushed are powerful pain medications that can cause overdoses in very small amounts.

HOW-TO DISPOSE A MEDICAL EQUIPMENT

The final type of medical waste that needs to be disposed of properly is medical equipment. This equipment runs the gamut from casts to I.V. bags and from catheters to incontinence items. To dispose of these items follow the steps here.
  • Double bag all medical equipment waste in large black garbage bags.
  • Place these bags in your sealed garbage can. This is especially important because these scents can be attractive to animals.
  • If you do not have a large enough garbage can, you can contact your local medical waste collector and they will work with you to find a solution.

Remember, never recycle or compost medical waste. If it is sharp, use a closed container. If it is medicine, use a take-back program or follow the package directions. Finally, if it is medical equipment, double bag it and secure the lid on the garbage can. Follow these directions and you can be confident you are disposing of medical waste properly and making our environment just a little safer.