What is Medical Waste?
The correct term to use when discussing biohazard waste is Regulated Medical Waste (RMW). Regulated Medical waste is solid waste that may be contaminated by blood or other potentially infectious materials. The best agency to follow when defining RMW is the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
The EGLE defines Regulated Medical Waste as:
Cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals, including laboratory waste, biological production wastes, discarded live and attenuated vaccines, culture dishes, and related devices.
Liquid human and animal waste, including blood and blood products and body fluids, but not including urine or materials stained with blood or body fluids.
Contaminated wastes from animals that have been exposed to agents infectious to humans, these being primarily research animals.
The red biohazard bags and containers seen throughout healthcare facilities are used to safely store Regulated Medical Waste. Sharps are stored into puncture-resistant containers prior to being placed inside the red biohazard bin for added protection. The RMW is removed on a scheduled basis and replaced with a clean container at every service.
Different Names for Regulated Medical Waste
Red Bag Waste
UN3291 PG II
Examples of Regulated Medical Waste
Blood saturated Items
Medical Waste Producer Best Practices
Prior to producing, storing, or removing your facilities medical waste make sure to contact your local environmental authority for any questions on the regulations and laws. Ask about the handling procedures on Regulated Medical Waste for your particular state. For example, in Michigan, medical waste producers are only allowed to store medical waste up to 90 days before they have to have it properly removed by a licensed medical waste vendor.
Who Regulates Medical Waste (RMW)?
Medical waste is primarily regulated by state environmental and health departments. However, it is also regulated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are many hands in this pot but one should contact their state environmental protection agency for more information on medical waste regulations.
Why Manage Medical Waste Differently than Regular Trash?
Regulated Medical Waste raises concerns over potential health hazards. Improper disposal of RMW has lead to infection and disease outbreak. This concern grew in the 1980s when health officials found used needles and biohazard washing up on the shores of multiple East coast beaches. Abiding by all medical waste regulations reassures that the material is being safely disposed of. Not following RMW laws can cause facilities to be prosecuted by local and federal health agencies.
Treatment & Disposal of Medical Waste
Treating medical waste typically involves an autoclave. This machine steam heats medical waste at extreme temperatures for a long enough time to completely disinfect all potential biological threats. After the waste has been steam treated it is considered regular waste and is disposed of in a sanitary landfill. At Superior Medical Waste our RMW is autoclaved as well as shredded to reduce waste volume by 70% before going to the landfill. Learn more about our process here.
Superior Can Help With All Medical Waste Concerns
We know more than anyone how complicated Regulated Medical Waste regulations can be. At Superior, we are professionals in biohazard knowledge. We are up-to-date on all federal and local RMW laws. If your facility needs help classifying, storing, transporting, or staying compliant: contact us today for a free consultation.
Medical Waste Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Are unused or expired pharmaceuticals considered Regulated Medical Waste?
A: No, Pharmaceutical waste is not considered regulated medical waste but a pharmaceutical waste or universal waste and it must be handle separately.
Q: How long can we store Medical Waste before hiring a service to pick it up?
A: This varies state-to-state. In Michigan, you have up to 90 days to store medical waste before having to dispose of it. Contact your local authority to find out how long you can hold onto RMW.
Q: Where should our facility store our medical waste prior to having our service remove it?
A: You should store your medical waste in a lab or closet with a properly labeled door stating that this room is specifically meant for biohazard storage. Ask your Superior Medical Waste Representative for a welcome packet and biohazard stickers to help you stay compliant.