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How to cut back on your medical waste
1. Know your state laws. You need to be familiar with state regulations regarding medical waste so you’ll know what is considered “regulated medical waste” (waste that is contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious material) versus other types of waste such as hazardous, chemo, pathological and or Pharmaceutical.
2. Develop a formal waste management plan. Your plan should include how to properly manage regulated medical waste. Share your plan’s goals with staff so that everyone is on the same page. Review your plan at least annually for potential policy or process changes. Provide staff educating at orientation, periodically thereafter and when policy or process revisions are made.
• Post signage Place signs throughout the facility that describe the type of waste that can be put into each container.
• Color code containers to help ensure appropriate separation of wastes. For example, use red containers for “red bag waste,” Yellow for “Chemo-Waste” and gray for “Pathological Waste.”
3. When possible, use reusable products in place of single-use products. For example, some sharps containers and certain medical instruments can be disinfected and reused. Check to see if products are reusable before buying. Also, review your state regulations and the product manufacturer instructions to see if products can be used more than once.
4. Use small medical waste containers in patient rooms. Larger containers make it easy for patients and staff to use them as regular trash bins. When possible, don’t make medical waste containers accessible to anyone but staff.
5. Separate “red bag waste” containers from solid waste collection containers. “It is easy for staff to drop items in the wrong bin when they are side by side,” Store medical waste bins in a secure safe area away from patient access.
6. Make sure pharmaceuticals and chemotherapy agents are being disposed of appropriately. Educate staff on the importance of not putting unused pharmaceuticals or bulk or trace chemotherapy waste in red medical waste bags. Those items should be separated for proper treatment (e.g. incineration) according to state regulations.
7. Conduct waste audits. Do periodic audits to see if medical waste is being disposed of correctly and that your plan is being followed. Make necessary changes and findings to become more efficient.
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