Waste management is a complex issue that spans several industries and regulatory bodies -- and it all starts within the walls of your facility with proper waste segregation.
But as you know, not all waste is created equal. Legal guidelines are in place to govern the way waste is handled, from the classifications of different waste types, to the items that may or may not qualify within those classifications, right down to the color and type of bin in which waste is disposed of.
It’s not enough for facility and compliance managers to know those guidelines. Healthcare facilities must ensure staff at all levels of the healthcare organization are trained to comply with waste segregation guidelines in order to keep everyone healthy and safe.
So where to begin? Training from a waste management expert is a good first step for many organizations. Additionally, helpful resources like the infographic below can serve as a useful guide to print, share and distribute among key staff members. First, let’s take a more detailed look at what it covers.
What are the different types of medical waste?
Medical waste goes by different names, including infectious waste, biological waste, biohazardous waste, microbiological waste, and red bag waste. Medical waste includes both solid and liquid forms of waste, and is generally disposed of via methods like autoclaving or incineration. The different categories of waste include the following:
Regulated Management Waste (RMW)
- Blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM)
- Saturated gauze or swabs
- Contaminated gloves/personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Soaked or caked dressings and bandages
- Clothing with blood or OPIM
- IV tubing and blood bags
- Containerized solid or liquid blood and OPIM
- Materials from biohazard clean-ups
- Sealed sharps containers
- Saturated oral cotton (dental procedures)
- Broken glass
- Broken capillary tubes
- Exposed ends of dental wires
- Cardio-catheter wires
- Disposable suture sets and biopsy forceps
- Electrocautery devices (tips only)
- Human-derived tissues
- Lab animals
- Tissues from lab animals
- Pathological cultures
- Feces and bedding from lab animals
- Items contaminated with trace amounts of chemotherapeutics
- Gowns used during infusion
What are the different types of pharmaceutical waste?
Pharmaceutical waste can be considered as hazardous waste or non-hazardous. Similar to medical waste, methods of disposal for some types of pharmaceutical waste include incineration.
While consumers are likely responsible for much of the pharmaceutical waste that poses a threat to the environment and surrounding communities, healthcare facilities are of course responsible for proper segregation and disposal.
As such, pharmaceutical waste should be divided into the following categories:
This includes DEA-scheduled narcotics and non-listed meds with abuse potential.
This includes all medicines that are NOT DEA controlled and not listed by RCRA or defined as RCRA by your facility.
RCRA P-Listed or U-Listed as the active ingredient meets the legal definition of RCRA Hazardous. (For a further breakdown of DEA schedules and RCRA substances, download the training resource, How to Identify and Manage Waste Streams.)
Items in this category include:
- Warfarin (P-List)
- Arsenic trioxide (P-List)
- Epinephrine (Free base only)
- Certain inhalers
- Acutely toxic
Want a visual a recap on everything described here? Print our Healthcare Waste Segregation Infographic.
Compliance and Training for Your Facility
Remember, as a waste generator, your healthcare facility is responsible for proper segregation, transfer and disposal of different types of waste. And while compliance may feel like a heavy burden, know that you don’t have to go it alone!
A reputable waste provider can provide the service, expertise and training resources to ensure your facility is checking all the boxes for safe and compliance waste management practices.