Clinical Waste

What is clinical waste? Why is its disposal so important?

Any waste generated during clinical activities that have the potential to cause injury or infect other people can be qualified as clinical waste. This means that almost any potentially infectious material can be considered clinical waste, including bandages, textiles, papers, swabs, glass, plastic, and of course, disposable medical instruments and surgical equipment.

This also includes items contaminated by blood and bodily fluids, which can be especially dangerous because of their ability to easily transmit infectious diseases to other people.

This is even more of an issue in the case of sharps (any medical material that can cut or pierce the skin), which make up the most of infectious clinical waste generated each year. They are used at dental at veterinary clinics alike in the treatment of people and animals. As per the guidelines of the World Health Organization, sharps cannot be reused after the treatment of patients and must be disposed of in such a way that they reach an “unrecognizable” state.

The basics of clinical waste management – What to do before disposal

Before clinical disposal can occur, every waste management system needs to have solutions in place for:

  • collecting the generated clinical waste
  • storing the collected clinical waste
  • transporting away the stored clinical waste

Clinical waste must be stored in appropriate, color-coded containers, just like regular municipal waste needs to be segregated to facilitate recycling. This helps staff identify what kind of waste they are dealing with and handle it accordingly.

For example, clinical sharps waste is usually stored in either red or yellow, puncture-proof containers marked with the universal biohazard symbol. One of the most important golden rules to follow apart from wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is to never overstuff your containers, as this can easily lead to injury or infection! Once a container is at ¾ of its capacity, it can be considered “full”.

After the clinical waste has been segregated in the right containers, these need to be stored in a separate storage area that is far off from any populated areas like work areas, patient wards, restrooms, waiting rooms, cafeterias etc. This is where it will remain until the disposal of clinical waste can occur.

NB!! Disposal should be to the permitted licensed incineration plant.