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Medical Waste: Understanding the Classifications

Updated: Feb 7

Medical Waste Management and Classification

Designed by Freepik

Fortunately, every type of healthcare facility must adhere to strict guidelines and regulations when disposing of medical waste; as long as they follow along with these standards, they will help prevent injury and the spread of infectious diseases. This, of course, requires the ability to identify something as “medical waste” and dispose of it accordingly. To help you classify the medical waste produced in your healthcare facility, here are five common categories:

1. Often handled in clinical settings, infectious waste is described by the World Health Organization as anything that has come into contact with blood or bodily fluids. This category also encompasses cultures and stocks used in lab work and patient waste like disposable medical devices, bandages, gauze and swabs. The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 describes how infectious waste is a general category composed of anything having to do with tissue or fluids.

2. Pathological waste covers human or animal body parts including organs, tissues, surgical specimens and bodily fluids removed during surgery or autopsy.

3. Sharps are dealt with at healthcare facilities across the board on a regular basis. This group accommodates needles, syringes, coverslips, pipettes and blood tubes, as well as disposable blades and scalpels. As its name indicates, everything belonging to this category is or can become sharp and cut or injure someone. Choice MedWaste, for example, a leading medical waste service provider in DE, MD and PA, supplies and hauls away disposable sharps containers for local healthcare facilities to help prevent such issues.

4. Some clinical settings and doctor’s offices also deal with pharmaceutical waste, which consists of any expired, unused or contaminated drugs, as well as vaccines. There are two categories for pharmaceutical waste. Most customers will have Non-Hazardous pharmaceutical waste that Choice MedWaste is licensed to take and dispose of safely in a medical waste incinerator.

There is a small subset of pharmaceuticals that must be treated as Hazardous Waste. Choice MedWaste has partners in the hazardous waste industry and can help clients safely destroy these hazardous pharmaceuticals via mail back programs. When officials use the either pharmaceutical destruction program through Choice MedWaste, they can count on the experts to administer safe, controlled destruction services that are 100% compliant.

5. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) considers anything potentially harmful to human health or the environment as hazardous waste, including liquids, solids, contained gases or sludges. This group typically consists of waste that has any of the following characteristic properties: ignitability, corrositivity, reactivity or toxicity. Everyday examples of hazardous waste include batteries, paints, solvents, pesticides and cleaning agents. These products must be disposed of properly to prevent the possibility of someone becoming ill due to exposure.

Knowledge is power; be aware of what’s considered “medical waste” and dispose of it properly to prevent injuries and the spread of infectious diseases in your medical facility.

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