Waste Management in The Healthcare Sector: Recent Innovations



Healthcare waste is a normal by-product that results from the medical act. Unfortunately, most of the waste generated by public hospitals or private clinics, has a hazardous character and it has to be properly managed. If not, it has the potential to threaten public health but also the natural environment. Regardless, there are some particular types of waste that have a more threatening potential than others. Infectious waste is one of the most dangerous types of waste, cumulating between 15% and 25% of the total quantity of waste produced across the world in the healthcare sector. Second comes chemical and pharmaceutical waste (approximately 3%) and body parts waste, somewhere around 1%. Sharp waste is also situated at 1%, but the infectious character makes it incredibly dangerous. But more on innovative solutions of healthcare waste management and strategies, you will find in the following paragraphs.

Leading causes of death and disability associated with an improper waste management

When it comes to this matter, sharp waste seems to be the leading cause of infection or death. Although the quantities of this type of waste are not that significant, the potential that those have, made it considerably dangerous. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that this type of waste is the top leading cause of infection of healthcare workers, waste handlers and communities. Needles and syringes that are contaminated may lead to HIV, HBV and HCV infections. The statistics on the year of 2000 show the following.

  • 32% of all new HBV infections were caused by contaminated syringes or needles;
  • 40% of all new HCV infections were caused by contaminated syringes or needles;
  • 5% of all new HIV infections were caused by contaminated syringes or needles.

A better waste management strategy will help in the future to decrease those numbers and rates. Fewer healthcare workers or representatives of the communities in which healthcare waste is poorly managed are expected to become infected with life-threatening diseases, especially in those under-developed countries.

WHO recommendations for better waste management practices in healthcare

During the WHO meeting in Geneva in 2007, the institution made some recommendations in terms of waste management practices that have to be adopted by all institutions that operate in the healthcare sector, as it follows.

  • Governmental bodies should offer financing for public healthcare institutions for a well-developed and functional waste management system;
  • They should implement and monitor the development and implementation of these systems and strategies.
  • Donors should also direct part of their donations towards a better, more functional implementation of these strategies and practices.
  • Waste management companies and product developers should develop better products and services for the healthcare sector. Luckily, the experts at Miltek claim that such solutions are already available, and companies in the industry have already followed this recommendation, their offer including a variety of waste management solutions for the healthcare industry.
  • Health care institutions in the private sector should also develop and implement viable strategies for a better waste management.

It’s obvious that all institutions that have contact with the healthcare system should contribute to this matter, but many choose to remain ignorant to the variety of waste an institution like this has to deal with. Below are some of the most important types of waste for which proper management and disposal solutions should be found.

Clinical waste: proper disposal and management strategies

Around the world, clinical waste is categorized into different types, each of those calling for a different handling method. Depending on its source and characteristics, different types of storage solutions and processing are necessary; but also a disposal strategy different than the waste handling in the case of a household, let’s say. In terms of containers used for this type of waste, those should meet all the safety and precautionary measures. For instance, all bags used for disposing of this type of waste should be properly labelled and have a different appearance than regular waste collecting bags. Yellow is generally used as a code for this type of waste. Small and large containers should also be easy to tell apart from other types of waste disposal containers.

Pharmaceutical waste: proper disposal methods

Pharmaceutical waste is a boarder category of waste that includes out of date pharmaceutical products, destruction kits for controlled drugs, cytostatic waste, cytotoxic waste, over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, recalled stocks of pharmaceutical products. Because of the risks usually associated with this type of waste, and the health-threatening potential that they have, licensed disposal and handling are necessary; also, proper containers in which it should be kept in until disposal. Controlled drug destruction kits are also necessary. These contain a denaturing powder which is used on controlled drugs before their disposal.

Sharps disposal solutions healthcare institutions should consider investing in

As mentioned in the beginning, improper sharps disposal methods are the leading cause of infection with HIV, Hepatitis B and C virus, especially in the countries that are still developing. When it comes to this type of waste, experts claim that there isn’t such a thing as too many precautions. Because of this, companies that specialize in waste disposal have some great solutions that help medical staff members keep themselves and their patients safe in the medical process. Compact and large sharps disposal containers are what you are looking for when it comes to this type of waste.

Generally, institutions that activate in the healthcare sector have to deal with all the types of waste that are listed above. For a great management solution, experts recommend collaborating with a reputable waste management company and supplier. This will allow those institutions that are handling such waste to prevent disease and infections amongst their employees and patients. Also, in most of the cases, medical waste leaves a significant footprint on the environment as well. Prevention is always recommended and for a flawless process, following WHO’s waste management and handling guidelines is recommended. Proper containers and disposal methods should be followed regardless of the medical institution’s dimensions or profile. Safety is a general concern regardless if we are speaking about dental clinics or surgery clinics.