Most facilities will generate regulated medical waste, which includes items saturated with blood or body fluids and needles or other sharps that have been used on a patient or contaminated with blood or body fluids. Organizations should dispose of this kind of waste using red bags (for non-sharp items) and sharps containers (for needles and other sharp elements). Organizations should locate these receptacles in areas that are easily accessible by staff.
When it comes to hazardous waste, organizations must be scrupulous about disposal. If these dangerous materials are not handled appropriately, they can be toxic to not only staff and patients, but also to the environment and surrounding community.
The first step in proper hazardous waste disposal is determining what types of waste are present in a facility as defined by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. Generators need to determine if their waste is listed (found on the U, P, F, or K lists) and/or if the waste exhibits a hazardous characteristic – ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic.
Another type of hazardous waste frequently found in healthcare organizations are pharmaceuticals that can no longer be used because they are opened or expired. A pharmaceutical is considered a hazardous waste when disposed if it contains a chemical that is on one of the lists mentioned above, or, if that chemical exhibits one of the aforementioned hazardous characteristics. Organizations should have special containers designated for hazardous pharmaceutical waste, and these should be clearly marked. Incompatible wastes should have separate containers to prevent potential chemical reactions. For instance, oxidizers should be kept separate from ignitable wastes.
It is important for organizations to consider where they put hazardous drug disposal containers, making certain they are accessible by staff but not to the public. In most facilities, a medication room and/or a nurses’ station would be an ideal spot.
For information on how Stericycle can help your organization ensure proper waste disposal, call 866-783-6275.