Waste management is perhaps more important for hospitals than any other industry or institution. Hospitals produce vast amounts of waste and refuse from all manner of sources and not all of it can just be thrown into the rubbish bins.
There are two types of waste produced by hospitals and medical settings: clinical waste, which is produced by medical procedures, and standard refuse.
Clinical waste is generated from surgical procedures and contains six different types of waste, the disposal of which is strictly controlled by legislation and procedures:
- Sharps: hypodermic needles, scalpels and other sharp metallic items that have to be disposed of in special sharps bins. These are sanitary bins that are clearly marked hazardous and are designed to prevent accidental insertion of hands or digits which could lead to infection and contamination.
- Infectious – waste that can cause the spread of infection. Bandages, suture and other items that has human detritus on it has to also be disposed in a sanitary bin – which also has to be clearly marked and disposed of following correct procedures.
- Pathological: these are body parts such as human tissue which is strictly controlled in its disposal. Traditional incineration was used but more and more frequently other less environmentally damaging methods are used.
- Pharmaceuticals: drugs and chemicals that are disposed off are also strictly controlled.
- Radioactive: less common but as equally controlled; radioactive waste is often generated by x-rays and radiotherapy procedures.
Hospitals also produce vast quantities of general refuse and waste too. Generated from patients, visitors, staff, offices, kitchens etc. etc. And while there are no strict guidelines for this type of waste there are things to remember when it comes to dealing with refuse in hospitals.
Hygiene is often a major factor and nurses and doctors really don’t want to handle a bin to dispose of a piece of paper as it would force them to go through their vigorous hand washing procedures. For this reason many hospital bins are pedal operated which helps reduce the risk of cross contamination too.
Another consideration for hospital bins is safety and security. Fire retardant bins are a must on wards and corridors. If a fire starts in a hospital it could lead to catastrophic loss of life Equally in this day and age, see through hospital bins are used to prevent the hiding of suspect packages.