How To Manage Clinical And Related Waste?

If you run a healthcare facility, you should be aware that your facility can generate clinical and related waste during clinical, teaching, and research activities and that your facility must manage this waste following legislative and regulatory requirements.

As such, you must adequately manage clinical and related waste to reduce the possibility of contact with the waste and the risk of accidental release into the environment. Adequate clinical and related waste management is critical to reducing operating costs and environmental impacts.

Below is a brief guide on the definitions and management of clinical and related waste, which will hopefully help inform your own clinical and related waste management plans and practices for your facility.

Clinical Waste Definitions

Clinical waste is any waste that has the potential to cause disease and includes the following:

Animal Waste

Animal waste is any tissue, carcasses or other waste from animals used for laboratory investigation or for medical or veterinary research. This can include body parts, bedding, blood, and carcasses as examples.

Discarded Sharps

Sharps are devices with sharp points or cutting edges that can cause a penetrating injury to a human. This can include:

  • Syringes
  • Needles
  • Lancets
  • Scalpel blades
  • Any object capable of cutting/penetrating skin

As various substances can contaminate sharps, they must be managed as per sharps waste management practices and contaminating agent-specific practices.

Human Tissue Waste

The Human tissue waste includes any tissue, blood, blood products, and other body fluids that are:

  • Removed from a person during surgery, other medical procedures, post-care, or other treatments
  • Specimens and the containers in which the specimens are kept

Human tissue does not include human body parts, teeth, hair, nails, gums, or bone for clinical waste management purposes.

Laboratory Waste

Laboratory waste is a specimen or culture discarded during dental, medical, or veterinary practice or research. Wastes tainted by genetically modified or imported biological material are included. Infectious agent cultures and stocks are also included in laboratory waste.

Related wastes are found within the healthcare industry or similar wastes from other industries. It includes waste that constitutes or is contaminated with the following:

  • Chemicals
  • Cytotoxic drugs
  • Human remains
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Radioactive substances

Each waste type has regulations and should not be handled as clinical waste. It would be best if you referred to the specific guidelines based on your state or territory for managing these particular waste types.

Your facility must effectively separate clinical and related wastes from general and recyclable waste to manage it properly. Inappropriate waste disposal can be detrimental to your waste disposal costs (any general contaminated waste must be treated as clinical and related waste) and can negatively affect the environment and unsuspecting individuals.

A person who operates premises at which clinical or related waste is generated must ensure the waste is segregated into:

  1. Clinical waste
    1. Animal waste
    2. Discarded sharps
    3. Human tissue waste
    4. Laboratory and associated waste
  2. Related waste
    1. Chemical waste
    2. Waste contaminated with cytotoxic drugs
    3. Human remains
    4. Pharmaceutical waste
    5. Radioactive waste
  3. General waste

All clinical and related waste must be bagged, packaged, or placed in appropriate sharps containers and medical waste bins to ensure safe transportation and proper segregation from other kinds of waste. All sharps and medical containers should meet the Australian Standards requirements for safety and environmental reasons.

Manual handling of clinical waste must follow standard safe work practices, and your staff must keep personal contact to a minimum through appropriate containment.

When handling medical and related waste, you should always use appropriate medical waste bins, not standard plastic waste bags. Furthermore, if you have to move stored medical and related waste by hand, keep the item away from you.

Storage Of Clinical Waste From Facility

You must store any clinical and related waste your facility produces in a way that significantly reduces the chance of people and the environment being exposed to or affected by the waste.

Clinical and related waste must be:

  • Bagged and stored in rigid-walled, leak-proof secondary containers, preferably in an isolated, concrete room.
  • Kept so as not to cause environmental nuisance (e.g. refrigeration to prevent odour).
  • Held in an area inaccessible to the general public or animals.

In addition to the above, clinical or related waste must be packaged and labelled appropriately to minimise the potential for contact with the waste and reduce the environmental risk from accidental releases. Refer to your local state or territory guidelines for guidance on proper clinical and related waste labelling and packaging.

On-Site

On-site transportation of clinical and related waste should be done using secondary containers that are rigid-walled, leak-proof, and puncture-resistant, such as a sizeable wheeled garbage bin with appropriate signage. It’s highly recommended that you do not transport clinical and related waste in plastic bags whenever possible.

Your staff should transport waste through service areas and when there is little traffic. This is especially important in public places, such as dental clinics and other clinical settings.

To summarise:

  • Move waste in rigid-walled, leak-proof, puncture-resistant containers
  • Avoid moving clinical and related wastes in plastic bags meant for general waste
  • Do not use waste disposal chutes
  • Minimise exposure to waste
  • Avoid overfilling containers.

Off-Site

Moving any clinical or related waste from its point of generation (such as your facility) to be stored, treated, or disposed of is off-site transportation. All off-site transportation of clinical and related waste must undergo recording and reporting requirements.

The following is a brief list of recommendations if your facility moves waste off-site without the help of a third party:

  • Transported waste should be placed in rigid-walled, leak-proof, and puncture-resistant containers.
  • Ensure that any reusable containers you use are in good condition.
  • Use a vehicle that is easy to load and has a method to secure containers to prevent falling and mishaps during transit.

To reduce the logistical costs of off-site transportation, you should form an arrangement with a professional waste disposal company that can transport and permanently dispose of the clinical and related waste for you.

Treatment & Permanent Disposal

All clinical and related waste must be appropriately treated and disposed of through suitable means. This ensures that the waste is rendered harmless to individuals and the environment.

Some standard treatment methods for the treatment of clinical waste include:

  • Chemical disinfection
  • Sewage treatment
  • Incineration
  • Autoclave
  • Sterilisation

As a healthcare or research facility, it is essential to manage clinical and related waste properly to ensure you’re keeping within regulations while preventing any harmful effects from occurring due to the mishandling of said waste.

We highly encourage you to seek further information regarding the management and disposal of clinical and related waste from waste treatment and waste disposal contractors, as well as the relevant authorities to ensure that the waste produced by your facility is appropriately disposed of.