How Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities can Manage their Waste

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Waste management is an important concern for any organisation. Properly disposing of your waste is essential to protect the health of your staff and visitors, as well as being responsible to the community and the environment. This is particularly true for organisations in the health care industry, which have particular types of waste that require special handling.

Here is how hospital and healthcare facilities can properly manage their waste.

What are Waste Concerns for Hospitals are Healthcare Facilities?

Properly disposing of medical waste is essential to protect the well being of staff, patients and visitors. Additionally, many types of hospital waste contain dangerous chemicals or other harmful properties, including infectious materials. Therefore, if this waste is not disposed of properly, it could become harmful to the wider community, or pollute the environment.

Hospital and healthcare waste can include infectious materials that may harm the wider community if not properly handled. This kind of waste needs to be properly treated in order to reduce, or preferably eliminate its infectious potential before it is disposed. Hospitals and healthcare facilities also operate under strict government regulations around their waste disposal. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in severe fines and penalties.

How to Dispose of Medical Waste

There are a number of things for hospitals and healthcare facilities to keep in mind when disposing of waste. There are also a range of options available, depending on the organisation’s needs, capacity and onsite facilities.

Waste Storage

Appropriate waste disposal in the health care sector generally involves a combination of onsite and offsite measures to properly treat and disposal of waste. However, before you can dispose of the waste, you need to properly manage and store it prior to either in-house treatment or secure transport for off-site disposal.

In addition to waste disposal systems, waste storage equipment is essential for healthcare facilities to responsibly manage their waste. This is critical for protecting the health and safety of staff, patients and visitors to the site. Systems should include specific medical waste bins for storing waste, and dedicated repositories for sharps.

Incineration and Autoclave

Certain materials, such as infectious materials, need to be treated before they can be sent away for disposal. Onsite pre-treatment can be achieved through autoclaving or steam sterilization. Depending on the facility, the organisation may also choose to destroy certain infectious or potentially infectious waste onsite through incineration. 

Autoclaving is a type of waste pre-treatment that aims to eliminate infectious potential of the medical waste. This process uses steam to heat and therefore sterilize medical waste by killing any microorganisms that may be present in the waste, such as bacteria and viruses. Autoclaves use a closed chamber system that not only applies heat, but also pressure to eliminate microorganisms. This equipment is commonly used not only for waste, but also to sterilize medical equipment, tools, and sharps.

Incineration involves burning the waste in a controlled environment, and requires specific technology and equipment. Incineration also reduces the volume of medical waste, meaning smaller volumes need to be transported from the facility to places of disposal, meaning significant savings in dedicated waste disposal transport.

For facilities that do not have incinerators or autoclave equipment onsite, they may work with a dedicated specialist to safely remove and destroy the waste. In some locations, there may also be government regulations that require offsite incineration of certain types of waste, to make sure that pollution and air quality concerns are appropriately managed.

Offsite Waste Treatment

Hospitals and healthcare facilities should work with waste management experts that are specialized in medical waste treatment. These companies are certified to properly remove and transport medical waste, and to treat it properly before disposal, so that it will not harm the community or the environment.

These offsite facilities can use a range of treatment options, with the most common being: chemical, irradiation, and thermal waste treatment. Chemical treatments are usually only suitable for liquid and chemical waste, and use chemicals to neutralize the waste so that it is safe to dispose. Irradiation uses micro waves to eliminate infectious properties of sharps and other waste. Thermal treatments use heat to eliminate infectious microorganisms. 

Waste Reduction

As well as properly handling their waste, hospitals and healthcare facilities should make efforts to reduce the amount of waste they produce. This will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be managed, therefore reducing waste-related risks and representing significant cost savings.

The majority of waste in hospitals and healthcare facilities is paper waste such as office paper, cardboard, and newspaper. This can easily be recycled, as can a large proportion of other waste such as plastics. By implementing effective recycling systems, hospitals and health care facilities can greatly reduce their waste.

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