Hazardous Waste

Hospitals produce municipal solid waste, half of which is paper and cardboard, 17% of which is food and other organic material, 15% of which is plastics, and 15% of which is hazardous waste. It is the hazardous waste which is of great concern. It is made up of pathological waste, radioactive waste, chemicals used in chemotherapy and antineoplastic agents, biomedical waste, pharmaceuticals, waste anesthetic gases, sharps, and pressurized containers.

The biomedical wastes can lead to infections and outbreaks of disease. Hepatitis, HIV infections, and many other potential diseases may become a serious problem when people come in contact with disposable syringes, needles, IV sets, containers that have been contaminated, and other wastes.

Hazardous chemical waste may be generated in laboratories, maintenance areas, grounds keeping, and diagnostic and treatment areas. These chemicals may contaminate the air or water, or be included with solid wastes and cause potential hazards for employees.

Best Practices in Handling and Disposal of Solid and Hazardous Waste and Materials

  • • Reduce municipal-type solid waste by: requiring that suppliers use less packaging material; recycling as much bulky furniture, carpets, etc. as possible; using composting programs for lawn waste; using double-sided printing for documents; and filing insurance claims and purchase orders electronically.
  • • Reduce food waste by predetermining appropriate portions for staff and patients and by utilizing a controlled system of purchasing and storage.
  • • Turn old linens into rags which could be used in various maintenance areas and other areas.
  • • Use reusable dishes and silverware in areas where the potential spread of infection is not a concern and appropriate dishwashers can properly wash and sanitize them.
  • • After recycling construction and demolition wastes that can be reused, send the rest to clean landfills if not contaminated with asbestos, lead, mercury, or PCBs.
  • • For biohazardous waste see above topic on Best Practices for Medical Waste and Other Hazardous Substances.
  • • Collect, clean, and recycle solvents where feasible.
  • • Implement strict inventory control for pharmaceuticals, chemical purchases for laboratories, etc., and cleaning materials. Always put the new chemicals behind those that are already in the facility so that wastage will not occur because chemicals pass their use-by date.
  • • Minimize use of ethylene oxide.
  • • Identify all lead-containing equipment and supplies and determine if they can be reused, recycled, or must become hazardous waste and handled specially.
  • • Return to the vendors any pressurized containers or aerosol cans that have been used in the institution.
  • • Where items containing mercury are used, determine if there are mercury-free alternatives and if not collect and recycle the mercury-containing instruments.
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