When it comes to disposing of medical waste, there are two common disposal methods: incineration and autoclaving. With autoclaving, a chamber heats up to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, where highly pressurized saturated steam sterilizes each item that passes through. Incinerators, on the other hand, heat up to about 1,800 degrees and leave behind nothing more than ash residue. Here’s the main difference: waste is completely destroyed with an incinerator while, with autoclaves, important medical devices and equipment are simply sterilized and disinfected.
What waste needs to be incinerated?
Incineration isn’t required for every type of generated waste. But if you’re currently producing (or plan on producing) the following types of waste, incineration should be factored into your medical waste disposal strategy:
- Trace chemotherapy waste.
- Pathological waste, including human blood, body fluids, body parts and other biological tissues.
- Pharmaceutical waste – any types of non-hazardous medications
- Various types of hazardous waste
Red bag medical waste, which consists of bloody and contaminated materials – like bandages, gauze, gowns, sharps, etc. – do not have to be destroyed via incineration. Instead, these objects can be sterilized by going through the autoclave process. It’s important to remember: Although trace chemotherapy and pathological waste streams technically fall under the category of “regulated medical waste,” they’re not supposed to be disposed of in the same manner.
Of course, incineration is a crucial step in the waste disposal process, but there’s still one last step to follow. Once everything is incinerated, the remaining ash is shipped to a Subtitle D landfill, which is designed for non-hazardous waste.
Following this process, you can get a certificate of destruction, proving your compliance with medical waste regulations. This information can function as a type of insurance policy if you’re health care facility is ever audited, or if you’re ever asked to prove that you had properly disposed of a particular waste stream.
What are some common mistakes made by health care administrators?
Although some facilities send red bag waste to incineration just to make sure that they had followed all regulations and procedures, this an unnecessary and costly measure. The reason being that autoclaving machines are considered safe for the disposal of all red bag medical waste. This is a great example as to why it’s smart to work with a company specializing in medical waste disposal in Philadelphia, PA, Delaware and Maryland like Choice MedWaste. You’ll have peace of mind about utilizing safe disposal methods that are both legally compliant and cost-effective.
Another mistake common among healthcare facilities as they try extra hard to ensure full compliance, is considering pharmaceutical waste as regulated medical waste. Pharmaceutical waste must be incinerated. You should let your medical waste disposal company know if you have extra medications going into the medical waste containers. It is not worth trying to cut corners or take risks that could potentially lead to an expensive fine for failing to properly dispose of waste meant for incineration. However, when you ask an expert to dispose of medical waste for you, you can rest assured the whole process will be completed correctly.
What kind of influence do state laws have on of the disposal of medical waste?
Each state has separate regulations regarding medical waste procedures. From which waste streams must be incinerated to how long generators can store the waste, there are some major differences between states. We recommend our customers always follow up with their states specific environmental agency. However, we promise to be your experts in the states we service. If you ever have questions or concerns about new regulations or what specific procedures you should be following, please give us a call.
This is another great example as to why you should always pursue the services of a biohazard company in Philadelphia, PA, Delaware and Maryland like Choice MedWaste. If you’re a medical waste generator who’s confused and uncertain how state laws apply to your business, it’s crucial that you speak with a medical waste expert as soon as possible. Not only will you gain peace of mind about the safe disposal of medical waste, but you’ll also ensure you’re complying with all regulations and taking the most cost-effective route possible.