Waste management is crucial to the health care and hospital industry and is necessary in ensuring a sustainable future - Waste Management introduction. Waste management and waste minimisation practices serve to protect and enhance public health, minimise the environmental implications of disposing of health care waste and where possible ensure that waste is reduced, reused and recycled. There are various waste streams generated within healthcare and hospital facilities, below are three types of waste generated and the specific requirements and procedures that need to be followed when disposing of such wastes.
General Waste includes any waste that is not capable of being composted, recycled, reprocessed or re-used and is free of any apparent or actual pathological, infectious, radioactive or hazardous chemical contamination. General waste may include but not be limited to sanitary waste, urinary catheters, medical instrument packaging, incontinence pads, disposable nappies, intravenous tubing (non- infectious patients only), drained dialysis waste, paper towel and stoma bags. General healthcare waste is usually placed into black or green bags and can be disposed of in landfill.
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Clinical Waste is defined as any waste that has the potential to cause disease, infection, injury or public offence. Clinical waste includes human tissue waste (body tissue, organs, limbs, blood and other bodily fluids), sharps (any object capable of causing a penetrating injury to humans) and laboratory waste. It is necessary when handling clinical waste that the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) be worn. Clinical waste is disposed of in a yellow bag marked with a bio-hazard symbol, it is then placed in a lockable yellow wheelie bin for transportation to a waste management facility where it is incinerated.
Cytotoxic Waste is the by-product of cytotoxic drug therapy. Handling of all cytotoxic waste requires PPE as Cytotoxic drugs are toxic compounds known to have carcinogenic, mutagenic, and or teratogenic potential . All cytotoxic waste, including administrative equipment and tools such as sharps, medical instruments, gowns, gloves and bodily fluid waste must be packed directly into a purple colour coded, secure, leak proof container displaying the telophase symbol in white and clearly marked ‘Cytotoxic Waste’.
Cytotoxic waste is then incinerated. Waste management can have a major impact on public health and safety so it is imperative that there are established protocols for the management of the various waste streams. It is necessary for health care professionals to be aware of the environmental and health implications if waste is disposed of inappropriately. Effective segregation of waste material will reduce costs, promote recycling, and will assist to protect the health and safety of the all.