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Medical Waste Disposal – The Safe Way

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Medical Waste Disposal – The Safe Way


Medical waste disposal is an important issue that affects all healthcare facilities. As a healthcare administrator, I have a responsibility to ensure that my facility’s medical waste is disposed of properly and safely. This article will provide an in-depth look at best practices for medical waste disposal to protect my staff, patients, and the environment.

Segregating and Labeling Medical Waste

The first critical step is properly segregating and labeling medical waste. I need to train my staff on how to correctly separate biohazardous waste from general waste. I will implement a color-coding system using red bags and containers to allow for easy visual identification of materials contaminated with bodily fluids, blood, or other potentially infectious materials. I will post clear signage indicating what materials belong in each type of waste receptacle.

It is also essential to label all medical waste containers with the biohazard symbol. I will ensure stock of biohazard labels and red bags are conveniently available near any waste collection points. Proper labeling prevents accidental exposures and informs waste haulers of the hazardous contents.

Types of Medical Waste

Medical waste falls into different categories, each with specific handling requirements:

  • Infectious waste – anything contaminated with bodily fluids or other potentially infectious materials must be autoclaved or incinerated. This includes pathology lab waste.

  • Sharps – needles, scalpels, broken vials must be discarded into puncture-proof sharps containers. Sharps containers must be incinerated.

  • Pharmaceutical waste – unused medications, ampules, IV bags require special hazardous waste disposal. I will not put pharmaceutical waste into red bags.

  • General waste – non-hazardous materials like packaging or paper can go into regular trash. However, I will remove or destroy any patient identifiers before discarding.

Onsite Handling and Storage

My staff must promptly dispose of medical waste into the proper receptacles at point of generation. We cannot allow waste bags or containers overfill. Staff should only fill containers to about 3/4 full to allow for easy handling.

Medical waste must be transported safely to our central storage area. For large facilities like mine, we may utilize enclosed carts specifically designed for medical waste transport. At a minimum, staff should double-bag waste before moving it through patient areas.

Our central storage area will maintain a set of large medical refrigerators and freezers. They should be lockable and labeled as biohazard units. We must store any pathological or trace chemotherapy waste under refrigeration prior to treatment or haul away.

Offsite Transportation and Treatment

For final disposal, I will hire only a licensed medical waste hauler. They will transport our waste to a certified treatment facility for proper disposal.

I will validate my haulers have up-to-date permits and insurance documentation. The treatment facilities they work with should utilize incineration, autoclaving, or other approved methods to render waste safe. Under no circumstances should untreated medical waste end up in landfills or other unauthorized locations.

Prior to pick up, I will ensure hazardous waste manifests are filled out, listing the categories and quantities of waste being transported. This critical tracking documentation remains with the waste until final treatment.

Staff Training

Ongoing training is key to ensure continued compliant handling of medical waste. I will provide regular training on proper waste streams, segregation, labeling, storage, and transport procedures. New hires will receive this training as part of onboarding. I can utilize staff meetings, email reminders, posters and other methods to reinforce essential practices.


By developing comprehensive waste policies and procedures, I can ensure my facility properly manages medical waste disposal. This protects my staff from needle sticks, contamination and other hazards. It safeguards my patients and community from unintended exposures. And it fulfills my obligations for environmental stewardship. With the right plan and training, medical waste disposal can be safe for all.

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