, also known as clinical waste
, normally refers to waste products that cannot be considered general waste, produced from healthcare premises, such as hospitals, clinics, doctors offices, veterinary hospitals and labs
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...
In Europe, wastes are defined by their European Waste Catalogue (EWC) Codes. EWC Codes are 6 digits long, with the first two digits defining the over-arching category of waste, the next two defining the sub-category, and the last two defining the precise waste stream. Clinical waste comes under the "18" codes, for example: "18 01 01" corresponds to healthcare waste (18), from humans (01), that is sharp and not infectious . It has many waste things thrown.
In the UK, clinical waste and the way it is to be handled is closely regulated.. See NetRegs Current legislation lists
In 1988 the Federal government passed The Medical Waste Tracking Act
The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 is a United States federal law that addressed the handling and disposal of medical waste in coastal areas...
which set the standards for governmental regulation of medical waste. After the Act was repealed in 1991, States were given the responsibility to regulate and pass laws concerning the disposal of medical waste. All fifty states vary in their regulations from no regulations to very strict.
Disposal of this waste is an environmental
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...
concern, as many medical wastes are classified as infectious
and could potentially lead to the spread of infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...
. Examples of infectious waste include blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....
, potentially contaminated "sharps
Sharps waste is a form of medical waste composed of used sharps, which includes any device or object used to puncture or lacerate the skin. Sharps waste is classified as biohazardous waste and must be carefully handled...
" such as needles and scalpel
A scalpel, or lancet, is a small and extremely sharp bladed instrument used for surgery, anatomical dissection, and various arts and crafts . Scalpels may be single-use disposable or re-usable. Re-usable scalpels can have attached, resharpenable blades or, more commonly, non-attached, replaceable...
s, and identifiable body parts. Sharps include used needles, lancets, and other devices capable of penetrating skin. Infectious waste is often incinerated
Incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials. Incineration and other high temperature waste treatment systems are described as "thermal treatment". Incineration of waste materials converts the waste into ash, flue gas, and...
. The most common method of sterilization
Sterilization is a term referring to any process that eliminates or kills all forms of microbial life, including transmissible agents present on a surface, contained in a fluid, in medication, or in a compound such as biological culture media...
is an autoclave
An autoclave is an instrument used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam at 121 °C for around 15–20 minutes depending on the size of the load and the contents. It was invented by Charles Chamberland in 1879, although a precursor known as the...
. The autoclave uses steam and pressure to sterilize the waste. Additionally, medical facilities produce a variety of waste hazardous chemicals, including radioactive materials. While such wastes are normally not infectious, they may be classified as hazardous waste
A hazardous waste is waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. According to the U.S. environmental laws hazardous wastes fall into two major categories: characteristic wastes and listed wastes.Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are known...
s, and require proper disposal.
In the United States, there are three main methods for medical waste generators to dispose of their waste: On-site, truck service, and mail-back disposal. On-site treatment involves the use of very expensive equipment, and is generally only used by very large hospitals and major universities who have the means to afford such equipment. Truck service involves hiring of a medical waste disposal service whose employees are trained to collect and haul away medical waste in special containers (usually cardboard boxes, or reusable plastic bins) for treatment at a facility designed to handle large amounts of medical waste. Mail-back medical waste disposal is similar, except that the waste is shipped through the U.S. postal service instead of by private hauler. Although currently available in all 50 U.S. states, mail-back medical waste disposal is limited to very strict postal regulations (collection and shipping containers must be approved by the postal service for use) and only available by a handful of companies.