According to a recent New York Times report, “Dallas produces 2.2 million tons of solid waste a year, including 1.7 million tons from places that often do not recycle, like apartment buildings and businesses”. (1)
From an outside observer’s point of view the production of large quantities of waste reflects incompetence and or inefficiency of either the producers or the end users. To be more specific, it can be termed as excessive material consumption. The question arises what is the best way to deal with it?
The answer is simple, but requires some background knowledge. The best waste management strategies focus on reducing the overall quantities of waste and once whatever waste is produced, the focus shifts towards minimizing its potential hazards. While the first strategy works on the principal of saving valuable resources and therefore, can be beneficial for a particular small segment of the society like the company producing the waste or its direct consumers. The later works on multiple fronts and almost all segments of the society directly affected by the results this strategy provides. Over long term only those medical waste management strategies will succeed which are focused on source reduction and resource recovery.
In the case of Dallas medical waste management strategy, MedPro Disposal provides medical waste disposal services to leading healthcare institutions and practices by recommending strategies aimed at reducing the major sources of medical waste generation. Our medical waste management team in Dallas offers the latest disposal and treatment technologies showcasing our major long-term investments in high-tech capital equipment and highly professional human resources. Together these two teams are playing their part in enabling Dallas to recycle all its waste. A plan that will see zero waste by the end of 2040. (2)
How We Go About It
In the field of medical waste management the most important attribute of the service is an innovative solution, tailor-made for your specific requirements and which is sustainable for long-term implementation. The current environmental challenges require a multi-dimensional approach to medical waste management. Before I go into the details of this multi-dimensional approach, let me first explain what exactly is medical waste and its sub-types.
Any waste generated in the processes as patients are diagnosed, treated and or immunized is termed as medical waste. Two common classifications of medical waste are in routine practice. The first one divides the medical waste on the basis of the size and quantity of the waste. The latter is a more technical and is further sub-divided in to three categories.
- Infectious Waste: Medical waste that potentially could transmit an infectious disease is called infectious waste.
- Hazardous Waste: In some cases chemicals and other hazardous materials used in patient diagnosis and treatment are referred to as hazardous waste.
- Sharp Waste: By definition, sharps waste is any bio-hazardous material that can puncture skin and is contaminated with bodily fluids. (3) See how we are managing it at MedPro Disposal.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality defines medical waste as any one of the following:
- animal waste from animals intentionally exposed to pathogens (disease causing bacteria)
- bulk human blood and blood products
- pathological waste
- microbiological waste
Where Medical Waste is Produced
It is produced in:
- Research facilities
- Diagnostic labs
- Miscellaneous healthcare facilities
- Immunization centers
How Medical Waste Management is Regulated?
For the healthcare industry, when medical waste and pollutants are created during the diagnosis/treatment/immunization process, the generator maintains liability forever. In plain words, the ownership of waste can never really be passed on. For example, a hospital generates medical waste and this waste is disposed-off properly in a landfill according to prevailing state and national regulations. If for some reason that waste breaches the landfill liner and contaminates adjacent groundwater then not only the medical waste management company will be responsible for remediation costs, but also the producer of that particular waste will share the costs of remediation. This is termed as joint and several liabilities in CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act). (4) Several organizations regulate the medical waste management industry on a national and state level.
Also known as “Superfund” CERCLA provides United States Environment Protection Agency the power to seek out those parties responsible for any release of pollutants and contaminants into the environment and assure their cooperation in the cleanup. Even if the release was made a decade or two ago. “EPA also recovers costs from financially viable individuals and companies once a response action has been completed.” This particular clause of the CERLA necessitates the involvement of high-tech medical waste management companies in disposal of such waste to avoid both short and long term discrepancies.
Dallas medical waste management regulations
In addition to national regulators, local regulatory authorities manage medical waste handling, transportation, packaging and disposal. In Dallas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) provides the necessary guidelines and regulates the industry. Separate regulations are in place for transporters and for those who treat medical waste. Although registration and reporting to the TCEQ is not required if you just happen to be the generator of medical waste. (5) Just hire a reliable medical waste disposal firm.
Retroactive environmental laws demand proactivity
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the term retroactive means, “extending in scope or effect to a prior time or to conditions that existed or originated in the past; especially: made effective as of a date prior to enactment, promulgation, or imposition”. This means a hospital or clinic, the producer of medical waste cannot obviate their responsibility for cleanup actions needed because waste disposal or chemical handling practices were considered legal at the time of the operations.
Being proactive means you select the best medical waste disposal company in Dallas with a proven implementation record in a variety of medical waste management scenarios. The conventional treatment/transportation/packaging technologies and disposal practices not only carry high operating and capital costs, but they invite possible future and long-term liabilities. So those who are operating within the current legal framework of environment protection can possibly create liabilities for you in the future. An organization which adopts best technologies and novel equipment can protect your current environment and future liabilities.
The best way to eliminate these liabilities is to tackle the medical waste and pollutants in the first place, at the source. A mobile disposal van or an in-house treatment plant are viable options in terms of results but can be a huge headache when you are already busy to the tilt. Therefore, in most cases, the viable option is outsourcing your medical waste management. The best option may not necessarily be the viable option.
Legal Responsibilities Related to Medical Waste in Dallas (6)
Responsibilities of medical waste generators
- A complete description of the chemical and physical characteristics of each waste.
- Must segregate the medical waste as per type after separating it from the ordinary trash.
- Transport the medical waste via an authorized transportation company.
- Generator must keep record of all medical waste shipped from its location for three years and this record must be available for inspection by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
- Medical waste must be placed in a plastic bag that meets the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials Standards (ASTM).
- This bag must be placed in a special container that is leak & moisture resistant, strong enough to prevent tearing and bursting under normal conditions of use & handling, and sealed to prevent leakage.
- In case of liquid waste, there must be enough accompanying absorbent to absorb 150% of the liquid transported.
- An operational plan outlining detailed instructions for carriers and handlers.
- A contingency plan to manage emergencies in case of accidents and other unforeseen events.
- The outer container must have a prominent biohazard symbol.
- The container must also have contact details and addresses of the generator and the recipient printed with indelible ink.
- Sharps must be placed in a marked, puncture-resistant rigid container suited for carrying such materials.
Responsibilities of Transporters of untreated medical waste
- Medical waste must not be transferred between transportation units unless such a transfer is made within a licensed medical waste transfer facility.
- In case of a vehicle malfunction, relevant authorities must be notified in writing within 5 days of the incident.
- In case of an accident, any damaged containers must be repacked and relevant authorities must be notified within 48 hours of the incidence. The report must mention all vehicles involved in the accident.
- A yearly summary of the activities must be submitted with TCEQ not later than March, 1 of the following year.
- If the untreated medical waste is kept in transition for more than 72 hours then it must be refrigerated at 45°F or colder.
Responsibilities of medical waste treatment facilities
- The operator of the treatment facility must ensure that 10% or more (by weight) of the waste is recovered for recycling and subsequent reuse. (This doesn’t include the 10% reduction through a source-separation recycling program which is mandatory as part of the local regulations. This is termed as materials recovery.
- The treatment facility must maintain a 10% material recovery rate for beneficial use. Examples of beneficial use include recovery of fats, oils, greases, and food solids for composting.
- The facility must man-monitored and should have a valid license under Texas Water Code to be permitted to discharge one million gallons of water per day. Other socio-political regulations may also apply.
- Pathogen-reduction performance testing record must be maintained.
- Must inform the generator in writing that the waste is properly treated as per generator specifications within 45 days of waste arrival at the facility.
Responsibilities related to disposal of treated medical waste
- Treated medical waste can be managed as routine municipal solid waste.
- Landfill personnel must only accept medical waste treated as per compliance rules outlined above.
- Untreated medical waste can only be dumped in a landfill if an emergency situation arises due to a natural or human disaster that may worsen if the waste is not dumped.
Storage requirements are same for generators and treatment facilities. Generators may require a facility to store a certain quantity of medical waste before it can be transported. Treatment facilities might not be able to treat the waste as soon as it arrives there. Following guidelines must be met.
- It must be closed with permission restrictions.
- Well covered with appropriate sub-sections.
- Impermeable flooring and proper drainage.
- Must be save from rodent, bird and animal intrusion.
- Well lit and properly maintained.
- Waste basins must be in close vicinity.
- The entrance must have a clear sign.
- Doors must have the universal biohazard sign.
- Must not be in close proximity with a food store or a water source.
Several disposal methods exist for treated medical waste. The two most common methods are incineration and landfilling. The other frequently used methods include sterilization, chemical disinfection and microwave heating & radiation. In an upcoming blog we’ll discuss these methods in detail, explaining their respective advantages and disadvantages with advice on which methods are suitable for your healthcare facility.
The importance of a clean environment is overwhelmingly understood by all developed societies and at the same time advanced healthcare facilities are producing more and more waste every year. This situation calls for triple action. We must reduce the quantity of waste, recycle whatever is possible to be reused and improve treatment/disposal technologies. Training interventions aimed at improving segregation, storage, transportation and treatment of medical waste can make Dallas one of the cleanest cities in the US, if not the world. At MedPro Disposal we are committed to contribute positively towards achieving regional and national environment protection targets.
- http://greendallas.net/zerowasteplan/ (no longer available, see here.)
- https://www.MedPro Disposaldisposal.com/sharps-container-disposal/