A good example of an institution that creates many different types of waste, including biomedical waste, is a hospital. Other institutions that create biomedical waste include dentists’ offices, medical (veterinary and healthcare) facilities, funeral homes, tattooparlors, research centers etc. Biomedical waste is regulated by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change via the Environmental Protection Act, and these institutions areaware that they are required to dispose of their waste properly.
What is biomedical waste? It includes all things that have been used in treating patients and handling body parts and animal carcasses used during research or when administering healthcare. Such materials include bandages, syringes, bedding and other biologic products like tissue or blood samples removed from laboratories, operating rooms, morgues and other medical facilities.
No industry possesses a complicated waste stream like hospitals. Different processes lead to the formation of different forms of waste, such as:
- Biohazardouswaste (sharp items and red bag wastes containing potentially dangerous pathogens);
- Solid trash;
- Recyclables (paper, cardboard);
- Hazardous waste (chemicals, solvents);
- Radioactive waste;
- Comparable waste.
The concept of medical waste treatment and waste disposal is still fairly new, and it was only recently that medical facilities stopped the practice of combining all types of waste together and then sending the entire bulk to be incinerated. This old practice leads to environmental pollution, the most dreaded form of which is the emission of mercury and dioxin.
Biomedical waste is only 10% of the waste generated by hospitalsand healthcare facilities. Yet it poses oneof the greatest risks to the environment and to public health. Therefore, segregation and careful management of biomedical waste is critical.
The most important aspect of effective hospital waste minimization and management isthe identification andsegregation (separation) of healthcare waste. Hospitals should learn how to separate regulated medical waste (RMW) efficiently because disposal of RMW is more costly than disposal of other forms of waste. The process involves two steps which are fairly straightforward:
- Assess or identify the particular types of waste generated by your facility. You can request help with an audit to be conducted by your preferred waste disposal company. They will assess your waste streams and deal with each type accordingly.
- Next, your facility should ensure that they prevent cross-contamination of your waste streams by creating a simple waste management plan.
On a final note, there’s nothing unusual about your overly cautious employees tossing pizza boxes and coffee cups into the RMW collection containers. They just need to be trained not to do this because including non-RMW items increases your waste disposal costs. So, you should set aside time for your hospital staff to get such training from the waste disposal company, so that in the future your staff will be able to tell what should go into the RMW disposal bins, and what shouldn’t.
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