One of the most important parts of medical waste management is knowing the rules and regulations about proper disposal. This is of such vital importance because improper medical waste disposal has real and dire consequences. For example, disposing of sharps bins in the incorrect manner poses serious risks to both individuals in contact with that waste and the environment. It also puts the medical facility doing the improper disposal at risk for fines or other penalties, so it’s important to know how and where to dispose of medical sharps bins.
How to Correctly Dispose of Sharp Bins
Department of Transportation (DOT) Approval
One common mistake when it comes to sharps disposal is merely putting the used sharps in a bin and handing that off to your medical waste management company. However, the sharp bin is not DOT approved. That bin, therefore, must go into a properly labeled, taped, DOT-approved box or container.
Even if the sharps bin is placed in a red bag to identify the contents as regulated medical waste, that red bag still needs to be placed in a closed, taped, DOT-approved box or container. The red bag waste itself should also be taped and secured closed.
Many of these DOT medical waste boxes even have arrows to indicate which side should be placed up or down, and those arrows should be heeded when packing.
Garbage versus Autoclave
Perhaps the most egregious error related to sharps disposal is simply throwing the sharps into the garbage. Even if the syringe, needle, or knife is in a puncture-resistant sharps container, it still can never simply be thrown in the trash.
If the sharp has come in contact with blood, other bodily fluids, or potentially infectious material, it needs to be treated as regulated medical waste (or “red bag waste”). To be properly disposed of, that first means properly packing the sharps. (The sharps go in a sharps bin, in a red bag, in a properly labeled, taped, DOT-approved container.) They can then be shipped to the autoclave or picked up by your waste management company to be shipped or delivered there.
An autoclave is essentially an oven that runs at 300 degrees for approximately an hour. This process kills any bacteria or infectious material that might be on those sharps and readies them for safe disposal.
Generally speaking, sharps don’t need to go to a medical incinerator, as this is reserved for hazardous materials.
Rule Changes and Professional Assistance
Medical waste disposal has undergone a lot of changes over the past few decades. It was, after all, not that long ago that people were merely dumping hazardous waste into the woods or streams with little chance of repercussions. Obviously, the laws (and associated penalties) are much more stringent now, and that is a trend that looks to continue.
In such a dynamic industry, it’s a good idea to work with a professional medical waste management company in order to learn how to dispose of sharps. A reputable company will be aware of the latest laws and regulations for medical waste and can walk your medical facility through what it takes to fully comply.
When the laws are intricate and complicated and the consequences are high, it’s always beneficial to reach out to experts and ensure you’re not committing any violations.
For more information about proper sharps disposal or how to ensure you’re in full DOT and federal compliance, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a medical waste management company in Georgia