Safe Medical Waste Handing and Disposal

Infection Control Today invited companies to participate in a roundtable addressing all aspects of medical waste, including sharps disposal and medical waste disposal.

ICT: Within your service category, what are the infection control imperatives that healthcare personnel should keep in mind when considering proper practices for medical waste handling and disposal?

Stericycle: With an economic recovery and the impact of health care reform uncertain, hospitals are faced with balancing their mission for quality care with fiscal responsibility and a quest to diminish environmental impact. Waste can be categorized into 10 waste streams of which 80 percent are highly regulated. Regulated medical waste (RMW) and hazardous waste, including pharmaceutical waste, are examples.

Utilizing reusable sharps containers can reduce total waste by as much as 30 percent.(1) Additionally, lined pharmaceutical containers help keep pharmaceuticals from the water table and diminish environmental impact. For example, one reusable sharps container prevents 600 disposable ones from going to the landfill.

Facilities can best achieve appropriate waste stream management with increased awareness and education. These practices can drive diversion to the most compliant level and include:
Garnering senior management support and initiating an interdisciplinary team
Appropriately segregating and disposing of all waste streams, especially pharmaceutical, to keep drugs out of the water
Characterizing the formulary so that hazardous and non-hazardous pharmaceuticals are kept out of the environment
Eliminating solid waste that can be recycled such as glass, cans, boxes, paper
Using a third party to proactively exchange reusable container systems for pharmaceutical waste, and for sharps waste that can decrease the number of sharps injuries (SIs) including needlesticks.

ICT: What are the top considerations healthcare personnel should think about when evaluating and purchasing medical waste-related products and services?

Stericycle: Developing compliant, safe, sustainable practices requires modification of staff behavior through ongoing education. Finding a service provider that focuses on education and compliance is one of the most critical elements to effectively managing waste streams. Appropriately segregating medical waste protects people and reduces risk.

A consideration for sharps management is a service provider that proves a decline in needlestick, sharp injuries and related costs. The CDC (2004) estimates that approximately 385,000 needlestick and sharps-related injuries still occurs every year in hospital settings. Average costs for testing, follow-up and preventive treatment range from $375 to $2,500.(2) In another study the average cost of a needlestick, excluding treatment, was found to be approximately $5,000/sharps injury.(3)

One can also link sustainability and infection control to the use of reusable sharps and pharmaceutical waste containers. Proactively exchanged containers better protect staff, patients and visitors. A facility or health system must consider reduction in risk tied to cost avoidance and cost savings.

Finally, choose a service that helps increase recycling percentages of total waste. At what rate should a facility be striving? Practice GreenHealths (2012) Partners for Change hospital award winners boast an average recyclables percentage from total waste of 28 percent.

1. Stericycle, Inc., 2013
2. Garcia R and Olmsted R. An Epidemiologic Perspective for the Infection Control Professional: Reusable Sharps Container. Stericycle white paper. 2010.
3. Science Daily Sharps Injuries Have Major Health and Cost Impact for Surgeons, April 2, 2013
Medical Waste Product Showcase

SaniSorb® Medical Liquid Solidifier
SaniSorb® Medical Liquid Solidifier, from Multisorb Technologies, is a self-bursting packet that provides fast and easy medical waste containment. These premeasured, dissolvable pouches solidify liquid waste, eliminating spills, splashes, and contamination caused by handling it. SaniSorb Packets help your facility comply with proper DOT regulations for the safe handling and transport of treated, infectious medical waste. SaniSorb Packets are simply dropped into the suction canister, kick bucket, or other bio-fluid waste container and quickly go to work immobilizing the fluid, eliminating the need to tear open pouches or pour the product like other conventional products. or (800) 445-9890

Stericycle Sharps Management Service
A national survey1 was conducted with 47 randomly chosen hospitals to determine the impact on sharps-related injuries during waste stream management and disposal. Participants were current users of Stericycles Sharps Management Service with Bio Systems reusable sharps containers the first reusable with a vertical drop lid and proactive exchange service. The survey showed:
98 percent decreased Phase IV/V SI (sharps disposal and container exchange) averaging 01/year
80 percent felt the proactive exchange of sharps containers led to better safety outcomes
100 percent having >2 years experience maintained the decrease in disposal SIs
Hospitals using Bio Systems have kept 134 million disposable containers out of landfills since 1986.(2) or (866) 338-5120

1. Marython Associates, Inc., March 2013