Generally speaking, the process for handling and disposing of medical waste involves decontamination, either with an autoclave or incinerator before being taken to a landfill.  Once decontaminated, medical waste residual materials can be treated as nonhazardous waste and disposed of accordingly. Heat, chemicals, or a combination of the two represent the primary disposal methods of medical waste, though untreated waste can be processed by other means of decontamination are unavailable.  

Principal Procedures for Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal  

Heat processing of medical waste involves either incineration at an off-site disposal facility or through the use of an autoclave or microwave treatment system. Incineration of medical waste results in the destruction of 99% of microorganisms and results in a few lingering remnants. Required by most states, incineration takes place at a controlled facility capable of providing complete combustion with minimal environmental impacts.  

Autoclaves rely on thermal treatment of sharps, including needles, blades, syringes, and other similar materials. Autoclaves are capable of treating 100-4000 liters of bulk waste materials. Using steam for treatment, autoclaves create a high-temperature, steam cleaning of medical waste for complete sterilization. Once processed by an autoclave, sterilized materials become nonhazardous and eligible for disposal through standard practices. Unfortunately, not all medical materials can be heat processed. Pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy waste cannot be handled by an autoclave and must be treated using other methods of disposal and decontamination.  

Similar to the autoclave, microwave treatment uses high temperatures to penetrate and decontaminate medical waste. Microwave treatment operates similarly to the typical microwave oven by generating heat through the heating of the water molecules within a substance. Because microwaves depend on water in order to achieve sterilization, materials slated for microwave treatment must be shredded in some states and combined with water prior to treatment. 

A more cost effective practice involves steam sterilization as an alternative medical waste treatment that is also popular in the developing world. Used alone or as part of a hybrid solar steam sterilizer, solar heating destroys bacteria and disinfects waste via a solar cooker procedure. 

Some types of medical waste that do not respond well to typical treatment practices can undergo chemical disinfection. Typically, the application of a purifying chemical will sanitize contaminated liquids like blood or urine. Two of the most commonly used compounds used in chemical disinfection are hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, and Fenton reagent. Chemical disinfection is primarily used for liquid-based waste such as blood, urine, stools or hospital sewage, and usually involves shredding of any materials and treatment as close to the collection site as possible.  

MCF Environmental understands all the intricacies of medical waste disposal. Our knowledgeable staff are well-versed in the federal, state, and local regulations governing the collection, treatment, and disposal of medical waste. We are familiar with all compliance requirements, and we follow all best practices for proper waste disposal, including certified drivers, ongoing training, and all necessary permits and insurance coverage. 

Contact us today to learn more about MCF’s Medical Waste Disposal Processes. 

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