What Are the Different Types of Medical Waste?


As someone working in healthcare, being aware of the different types of medical waste is an important part of your responsibilities. According to the World Health Organization, about 85% of all waste generated by health-care activities is general, non-hazardous waste. However, the other 15% is the type you need to be aware of. Knowing how to properly handle and dispose of the various medical waste streams can help ensure safety and regulatory compliance. Here’s more information about the different types of medical waste.

Understanding Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste refers to any waste materials generated during medical diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of humans and animals. This includes anything contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially infectious materials. It also encompasses discarded sharps and certain chemicals. Proper segregation, containment, labeling, storage, transport, and disposal of regulated medical waste is critical. Most facilities have rigorous protocols in place with special colored bags, containers, warning labels, and designated storage areas. Mishandling regulated medical waste poses major health and environmental hazards if contaminants are released.

Managing Pharmaceutical Waste

Expired, unused, spilt, and contaminated pharmaceutical products require careful handling as well. These items, which range from pills and capsules to ointments and intravenous solutions, can contain potent active ingredients as well as trace hazards like genotoxins. Pharmaceutical waste disposal must prevent unauthorized access and accidental exposures during transportation and medical hazardous waste disposal. Common methods include incineration at approved sites, mixing with an absorbing material, or returning medications to the manufacturer.

Understanding Universal & Hazardous Waste Streams

In addition to the pharmaceutical and regulated medical waste categories, healthcare centers generate various universal and hazardous waste types. Batteries, electronics, light bulbs, and devices containing heavy metals constitute universal waste. Meanwhile, disinfectants, solvents, acids, and lab chemicals fall under hazardous waste regulations. Like pharmaceutical waste, both universal and hazardous waste disposal involves following rigorous identification, handling, storage, documentation, and medical hazardous waste disposal protocols by state environmental agencies and the EPA.

Different waste streams in healthcare settings require specific disposal methods to mitigate risks and uphold safety standards. This not only prevents harms to the public, patients, and personnel, it also complies with laws like HIPAA and environmental regulations. Facilities failing to properly dispose of and track waste face steep fines or other sanctions. By understanding the diverse waste types and disposal protocols, you can help your organization excel at safety and statutory compliance. If you’re looking to work with a company that can handle various types of medical waste, including medical hazardous waste disposal, get in touch with a business today.