Biohazardous WasteMedical Waste Disposal Services
Biohazardous medical waste is any waste that contains infectious
materials or any materials that might be infectious, such as
waste produced by physicians’ offices and hospitals.
Biohazardous waste may also be waste that is of medical origin such as biomedical waste from laboratories, medical research offices, and veterinary clinics. Biohazardous waste is any solid or liquid material that contains contaminants like blood and body fluids. It also includes the byproducts of diagnosis, immunization, or treatment of humans or animals. Some examples of such byproducts are petri dishes, and bandages, medical gloves, and used sharp items like scalpels and needles. Biohazardous waste can also include organic material left on swabs, tissue paper, or towels.
The U.S. federal government passed The Medical Waste Tracking Act in 1988 which permitted the EPA to set up rules for management of medical waste in certain parts of the country. The 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act defines biohazardous medical waste as waste generated during medical research and testing of humans or animals. In 1991 the Act expired and the responsibility to regulate and pass laws regarding the disposal of medical waste reverted to various federal organizations and the individual states with regulations varying from state to state.
There are several similar terms for biohazardous waste. Common terms include medical waste, clinical waste, and biomedical waste. Another frequently used medical term is Regulated Medical Waste (RMW), infectious medical waste, and healthcare waste. Medical professionals use these terms interchangeably, however all refer to the waste created during any type of medical procedure.
There is a distinction between general healthcare waste and hazardous medical waste. The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes human tissue, sharps, contaminated supplies, and fluids as “biohazardous”, however non-contaminated equipment and animal tissue is categorized as “general medical waste.”
There are five types of biohazardous medical waste:
1. Solid Biohazardous Waste (non-sharps)
Solid biohazardous waste is any non-sharp material that contacts human or animal specimen material.
Some examples of this type of waste:
- Gloves and other disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) contaminated with specimen or culture material.
- Items made of plastic such as pipettes or pipette tips, Petri dishes, specimen vials, etc. that have been contaminated with biological specimens, bacterium, cell culture material, or nucleic acids.
- Tissue, towels and bench paper that are biologically contaminated
- Tubes of blood and/or glass blood vials that could break during disposal should be separated as sharps waste.
How to Store and Dispose of Solid Waste
Healthcare professionals should collect solid waste in an appropriately designated container lined with a bag of moderate thickness to prevent punctures.
The designated container must have a lid or another appropriate means of closure. Likewise the container must be labeled with the biohazard symbol regardless of the facility’s operating biosafety level. If the facility is approved for decontaminating onsite, the appropriate person decontaminates the solid waste by autoclaving. If the facility does not decontaminate onsite, then a waste management company such as MWA will collect and categorize the waste for transport to a processing facility. The processing site will then dispose of it according to regulation and landfills the remaining product in a medial licensed landfill area.
2. Liquid Biohazardous Waste
Liquid biohazardous waste consists of bodily fluids, blood, and culture media that may contain an infectious agent. If the liquid is in an amount of 25 milliliters or less, it can be managed as solid biohazardous waste. Any amount in excess of 25 milliliters requires it be managed as a Liquid Biohazardous Waste.
How to Store and Dispose of Liquid Waste
Any liquid biohazardous waste is required to be placed in a closed, leak-proof container. Personnel must secure the container so it doesn’t tip over and the container must be labeled as a biohazard. For extra containment, the liquid containers can be placed in a secondary container, like a tray or bucket.
Liquid wastes may be treated and disposed of by either one or the other of the following methods:
- Chemical treatment of liquids with disinfectant.
- Autoclave treatment of liquids.
3. Biohazardous Sharps Waste
Biohazardous Sharps waste is medical device that could be infectious and is sharp enough to puncture the skin. Remember, if it can puncture the skin, it can also puncture a plastic bag and must be placed in a certified Sharps container for transport and disposal.
Sharps include items like needles, microscope slides, scalpels, and broken glass vials. Sharps also include any items that attach to a sharps item such as a syringe or medical tubing attached to a needle.
How to Store and Dispose of Sharp Waste
Used sharps should be placed immediately in an appropriate sharps disposal container. These containers have leak resistant bottoms and sides and are made of puncture-resistant plastic with a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid. Likewise these containers are certified and approved by the DOT for transport.
As mentioned previously plastic serum pipettes aren’t sharp enough to puncture the skin, but they can puncture plastic bags and therefore should be handled as sharps.
4. Pathological Biohazardous Waste
Pathological waste includes any unfixed human or animal organs, tissues, and body parts but does not include teeth. Waste materials from a biopsy procedure are an example of pathological biohazardous waste. An additional example are anatomical parts that were removed during autopsies or surgeries.
How to Dispose of Pathological Waste
Storage, Treatment and Disposal
This type of waste is required to be bagged in biohazard bags that have a clearly visible biohazard symbol. Bags should be stored in an appropriate manner that will significantly reduce the potential for release of fluids during the storage and handling process, therefore it is recommended that the bags are stored in a secondary sturdy plastic container designed for pathological waste. A medical waste disposal contractor such as MWA will pickup and disposal of these materials.
Autoclaving is not appropriate method of treatment for pathological waste. Pathological waste should instead be incinerated at a licensed medical disposal site.
5. Microbiological Waste
Microbiological waste is produced most commonly in laboratories. Examples are disposable culture dishes, specimen cultures, devices used to transfer, inoculate and mix cultures, stocks, and specimens. It also includes vaccines and any devices that come into contact with vaccines if they are likely to contain organisms that are possibly dangerous or contagious to healthy humans.
How to Dispose of Microbiological Waste
This type of waste typically will fall under one of the above described types of biohazardous waste (solid, liquid, sharps, pathological). It should be identified and handled under the appropriate guidelines for that category of waste, many microbiological wastes are hazardous. It is important to determine the category for proper segregation and disposal. For example, if it’s a sharps waste, then it should be placed it in to the designated container. The same protocol applies for solid or liquid waste. If it is a hazardous waste it should be placed in a black bin.