The Different Types of Medical Waste
and How to Dispose of Them

March 16, 2021

According to the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988, medical waste is “any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals.” Medical waste includes the following categories:

  • Biohazardous Waste
  • Regulated Medical Waste
  • Pathological Waste
  • Infectious Waste
  • Sharps Waste

In this blog, we explain the differences between each category and how to dispose of them.

Biohazardous Waste

Biohazardous waste is any waste that impacts human health or the environment when discarded. It may contain blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials that threaten public health or the environment. The disposal of biohazardous medical waste is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Because biohazardous waste is detrimental to human health and the environment, it must be segregated for treatment at a medical waste facility.

Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste is any waste that has the potential to cause infection and is regulated by state and federal agencies. The collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of regulated medical waste must comply with the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state regulations.

Pathological Waste

Pathological waste falls under the category of regulated medical waste and is typically generated by hospitals, surgery centers or veterinary clinics. Examples of pathological waste include:

  • Bodily fluids
  • Tissues
  • Organs
  • Surgical specimens

Pathological waste must be segregated and separated from other types of medical waste and labeled with stickers that read “incineration only.”

Infectious Waste

Infectious waste is any waste that carries pathogens and could cause an infection in humans. Infectious waste can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Blood
  • Body parts
  • Patient bedding
  • Laboratory cultures

Infectious waste should be treated in an autoclave to kill microorganisms and spores. Biological indicators are used to make sure the autoclave is working properly.

Sharps Waste

Sharps waste is any type of waste with sharp points or edges that can puncture, lacerate, or cut the skin. Sharps include a wide array of different types of instruments and objects, including:

  • Hypodermic needles
  • Pen needles
  • Intravenous needles
  • Disposable scalpel
  • Lancets

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies sharps waste as biohazardous. As a result, sharps waste should be disposed of in an FDA-approved sharps container.

BioWaste LLC provides comprehensive medical waste solutions to clients throughout Middle Tennessee. To learn more, please give us a call at 615-491-4929 or complete the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!

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