Recycling Tips
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Waste Reduction & Recycling Tips for Medical Waste

Reducing the amount of toxic medical waste at the source, referred to as “source reduction,” it will help lessen the problem of medical waste. If less hazardous materials are used in the first place, less will be disposed of through processes such as incineration. Product substitution with recycled content and the use of alternate technologies can also aid facilities in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. The key to reducing medical wastes is source separation; that is keeping non-infectious waste out of infectious waste containers.

Here are some simple ideas that can keep non-infectious waste out of infectious waste containers:

  • Provide proper containers for all wastes that might be generated in a room.
  • Put signs on all waste containers stating what can and cannot be put in them.
  • Keep infectious waste containers away from sinks to keep paper towels out.
  • Remove infectious waste containers from public areas, label them "For staff use only" and have only small infectious waste bags available in the cabinets of patients' rooms.
  • Train employees at least annually about what is and is not infectious waste.
  • Train employees in small groups to encourage questions about specific items.
  • Visually inspect waste containers often. Correct mistakes immediately and reward compliance.
  • Use suction systems that either flush liquid wastes directly to the sewer or involve reusable suction canisters.
  • Discusses the pros and cons of flushing vs. solidifying suction canister waste.


Proper Segregation of Waste

Each day, non-hazardous waste is commingled with hazardous waste in the same bin. Since the cost of disposing medical waste is currently over $480 per ton, compared to municipal waste at a cost of around $24 per ton, the financial incentives are one of the many reasons to properly segregate medical wastes from non-medical wastes.



The majority of hospital waste is similar to that found in offices, hotels and restaurants. Recycling can divert valuable resources from costly medical waste. In order to close the recycling loop, favoring products made from recycled and post-consumer content will also help divert resources from landfills or incineration.


Alternatives to Incineration

As an alternative to medical waste incinerators, facilities have other methods that aim to reduce the toxicity of medical waste. One alternative technology is on-site autoclaving (steam sterilization). Autoclaves basically pressure cook the waste at high temperatures exceeding 200°F for an extended period of time, killing pathogens and rendering the waste sterile. This alternative significantly reduces air and water pollution, aiding hospitals and other health care facilities in doing their part to “protect human health.”




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