Medical waste is a type of waste that is generated by healthcare facilities such as dentist offices, hospitals, veterinary clinics, medical research labs and facilities, as well as blood banks.
Medical waste is divided into the following four categories:
- Infectious waste – Waste that has the potential to be infectious to humans, namely: blood, skin, organs, body parts, bloody bandages, discarded surgical gloves, swabs, etc.
- Hazardous waste – Waste that can possibly affect humans in a non-infectious way such as needles, sharps, scalpels, etc.
- General waste – Makes up 85% of all waste from medical facilities, much like household waste, and it can include materials such as paper, plastic, liquids and anything else not categorised in the above mentioned.
- Radioactive waste – This is waste that could be generated from nuclear medical treatments, medical equipment that uses radioactive isotopes, and cancer treatments.
Pathological waste is categorised among the above descriptions, but it is separated by being waste that comes from a living organism and waste that is removed during autopsies, except for teeth.
Medical waste is typically treated using the following methods:
Incinerators come in four kinds: moving grate, fixed grate, rotary-kiln, and fluidised bed.
- Moving grate: Typical for municipal waste and has “racks” that slowly move into the grate.
- Fixed grate: Brick-lined cell over lower ash pit, formerly found in apartments and are now waste compactors.
- Rotary-kiln: Lined cylindrical tube used by municipalities and large industrial plants.
- Fluidised bed: Strong airflow forced through a sand bed where air seeps through until it separates to let air through allowing for churning and mixing to occur.
Effective and sterilised method that exposes an object – medical waste in this case – to radiation to have the waste to disinfect. This process is rarely used for “everyday” waste disposal.
This process allows for sterile on-site bio-hazardous medical waste. It is economical as well as efficient and sterilises to set standards beyond all surgical tools, needles and sharps, as well as liquids.
Used for infectious and biological medical waste. This process is a type of pressure chamber using high pressure saturated steam and chemical vapours at 121 degrees Celsius for intervals of 15 or 20 minutes, depending on how large the size of the load is. Autoclave Tape is often used as a reliable indicator of when the correct temperature has been reached.
Incineration used to be the main form of waste disposal, but it has been found to create and concentrate harmful chemicals or toxic substances out of the materials that are being incinerated instead of destroying it. This has resulted in incineration being used for less harmful waste types that cannot give off any substances during the incineration process. As a result the use of the other medical waste disposal methods – mentioned above – have been developed and used as better substitutes to dispose of any waste matter that may contain chemicals or toxic substances that can be emitted while in the process of being disposed.