For many healthcare practitioners, disposing of their medical waste is a major job. Every single visit to a doctor’s office is likely to leave behind some type of waste, and it’s something many people have never even thought about before.
Last year alone, there were close to 146 million seasonal flu shots administered in the United States, and that represents just a fraction of the action. What happens to all of those syringes? Someone has got to deal with them in a safe and environmentally responsible way.
What constitutes medical waste?
Medical waste is used to describe by-products and waste materials generated from various healthcare processes at any health facility including clinics, hospitals, research facilities, blood banks, laboratories and veterinary hospitals. Medical waste also includes bio-hazardous materials such as syringes, needles, cotton wools, and other equipment used in treating humans or animals.
These waste products are potentially infectious, meaning they can prove harmful if not properly disposed of. Many medical waste products are also dangerous to the environment and can cause large-scale damage if not properly handled.
3 Most Common Ways To Dispose Of Your Medical Waste
There are three main ways medical practitioners typically dispose of their medical waste. Depending on your volume of waste, budget, and location, there are a few options for you to choose from.
- ON-SITE TREATMENT
This means your facility has the advanced equipment, tools, and trained staff on site to manage the entire process, from start to finish. There is no need to send anything anywhere, as they are fully equipped to manage everything in-house. This method can handle several types of medical waste products, but also requires a large budget. It’s an expensive option due to regulations and compliance rules by different states, industries, and federal agencies. This can make the on-site waste treatment complicated and costly, but it sometimes makes financial sense when the volume of waste is high like for hospitals. The facility has to be permitted and licensed as a medical waste treatment facility and staff need to be properly trained, which is an additional expense and time constraint.
- HIRING A WASTE MANAGEMENT COMPANY
One very common choice and often the most cost effective for medical waste disposal is to hire a waste management company that offers a comprehensive waste management service. This method involves hiring a company who comes to you, with personnel and a vehicle to collect and gather medical waste in containers that are designed for hazardous chemicals and biohazardous waste products. These will then be treated and handled in special waste treatment facilities equipped with commercial sterilizers (Autoclaves) or incinerators. Many treatment facilities are usually located away from residential and industrial areas so that people are not exposed to them. This choice can sometimes be the most economical and it also gives organizations the peace of mind to know that their waste materials are being disposed of properly.
- MAIL-BACK DISPOSAL
This disposal method is more complex, although extremely cost-effective. The mail-back disposal method involves disposing of medical waste by shipping it via mail, as opposed to the full-service option mentioned above. The mail-back disposal method is considered complicated because the medical waste has to be packaged in such a way that there is absolutely no risk of exposure. Once the waste has been packaged, it is then shipped via the mail to be treated and disposed of. The regulations and compliance rules involved are very stringent and the containers have to be tested, certified, and approved before accepted by the mailing system. While more complicated, this option is very affordable and can be an ideal solution for smaller healthcare facilities who have constrained waste management budgets or a very low volume of medical waste.
So, if you’ve ever wondered where all that stuff goes, now you know. Your healthcare provider is likely using one of the methods described above to ensure they keep their patients, staff, and the environment safe. Waste management and compliance training are an integral part of the functioning of healthcare facilities, and something we are proud to be a part of.
Learn more about OSHA Compliance, Medical Waste Management and Services and more, by getting in touch with Enviromerica today. We can ensure that you receive the best advice for optimizing your healthcare practice.