Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

Cost Reductions through Proper Waste Management

Waste Management in healthcare facilites is gaining importance but is still often overlooked.    Proper waste management helps reduce operational costs, reduce a facility’s carbon foot print and increase its social responsibility to the local community.   The primary purpose of Waste Management operations within healthcare facilities is for the safe collection, segregation, staging, transportation and processing of the waste streams generated within the building.

Hospital waste is defined as the total waste stream generated from a healthcare facility.  Most hospital waste (75% – 90%) is similar to domestic waste. This includes paper, plastic packaging, cans, glass, etc….that haven’t been in contact with patients.  A smaller portion (10%-25%) is infectious waste that requires special treatment. This smaller fraction of waste is the one that poses the greatest risks to human health and environment.

The following is a breakdown of waste streams found in Hospitals and Medical Centers:

General Waste is waste that does not require any special processing. General waste commodities include:

  • Paper Products
  • Plastics
  • Cardboard
  • Food Products

Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) is generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans.  Also referred to as Biomedical or Red Bag Waste; RMW is broken down into four (4) different subcategories.  They are:

  • Human Pathological Waste:  This waste includes tissue, organs, body fluids that are removed during surgery, autopsy or other medical procedure, specimens of body fluids and their containers, and discarded material saturated with body fluids other than urine.
  • Human Body and Blood Products:  This waste includes discarded human blood waste, discarded blood components, containers with free flowing blood or blood components, discarded saturated material containig free flowing blood or blood products.
  • Sharps:  This waste includes, but not limited to, the discrd of used sharps in human patient care, medical research, laboratories, clinical or pharmaceutical operations.  Hypodermic, intravenious, or othe rmedical needles, hypodermic or intravenous syringes to whick a needle or other sharp is still attached.
  • Cultures and Stocks:  This waste includes the culture and stock of agents infectious to humans, and associated biologicals, cultures from medical and pathological laboratories.

Hazardous Waste consists of discrded chemicals (solid, liquid or gaseous) that are generated during disinfecting procedures or cleaning processes. They may be hazardous (toxic, flammible, corrosive…) and must be used and disposed of according to the specification formulated on each container.

Recyclable Waste are those items that can be reprocessed and be reused again.  Categories of recyclable hospital waste include:

  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Glass
  • Cardboard
  • Green (Grass, landscape clippings and organic food waste)

Confidental Waste is are those items covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) of 1996. Items included are patient confidental information.

Radioactive Waste includes liquids, gas and solids that are contaminated with radioactive material.

Pharmacuetical Waste includes expired, unused or contaminated pharmaceutical products, drugs and vaccines.  Included in this category are discrded items used in the handling of pharmaceuticals like bottles, vials and connecting tubing.

Proper segregation will lessen the chances that waste streams have wrong waste types within them. An example is when general waste is put into the RMW waste stream.  (This occurs when all waste is removed from an operating room after a surgical proceedure and put into red bags.  Instrument and supply wrappers should be removed before the proceedure and put into a general waste  container.) RMW processing costs are higher than the processing costs for general waste.

Therefore, proper waste segregation will help a facility reduce overall waste processing costs.  Proper segregation begins with identifying the different waste types and streams within your facility.  The next step is to create a Waste Management Center that stages and/or processes your different waste types. Done in accordance with industry recognized processes and standards, a proper system will undoubtedly lead to overall reduced costs.

Leave a Reply