U.S. hospitals produce more than 2.3 million tons of waste each year. Not only are the methods for disposing of medical waste harmful to the environment, but they’re extremely costly for health facilities as well. Here are five useful tips to help reduce medical waste.
Implement and educate employees on a formal waste management plan:
Make sure all employees are fully aware and adhere to state regulations for disposing of waste, as well as the company’s personal protocols for waste management. An annual audit and review of the company’s waste management plan is a great way to make sure goals are being reached.
Segregate Waste Containers:
An estimated 50-70% of generated waste is disposed of in medical waste containers, dramatically driving up businesses’ environmental impact as well as disposal costs. Ensure that multiple types of labeled and color-coded waste bins are conveniently located throughout the facility to prevent disposal in the wrong place. Black trash cans, green recycling bins, and red medical waste bins are good indicators.
Make sure medical waste bins are properly marked and located:
Just because trained medical staff know what these red containers are specified for, doesn’t mean patients and visitors will be equally savvy. The “bio hazard” signage should be clearly visible on all medical waste containers. To further prevent patients from unknowingly disposing of non-medical waste in these bins, consider placing them in locations where they can only be used by medical personnel.
Know what types of medical waste are regulated:
Regulated medical waste generally consists of items that are contaminated by blood or other bodily fluids that can potentially spread bloodborne pathogens. However, definitions of what types of waste must be regulated differs statewide, so double check with your state what does and does not legally need to be disposed of in your red waste bins.
Reuse items (when it's safe and permittable):
Even if it’s labeled as “single-use,” certain items can be disinfected and reused, as long as local regulations clarify that it’s ok. Sharps containers and some medical instruments are great examples. Plus, reusing items will save you money, since you won’t constantly have to buy replacements!
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.