Cost-effective solutions to reduce medical waste

Sharps to Cash

A recent study showed that hospitals produce nearly 6 million tons of medical waste every year. Unlike regular trash, hospitals and medical facilities must dispose of medical waste in a safe and compliant way.

This can get quite costly over time. So how can those in the healthcare industry cut down on the cost of medical waste?

Here, we’ll explore some strategic ways to reduce the amount of medical waste you produce and help find cost-effective solutions for proper disposal.

Explore Your Options

Medical waste disposal is an operational expense like any other. And that means there’s nothing wrong with price shopping.

Different companies will offer different services and pricing. Shop around before signing a contract.

Most waste disposal companies will help you collect, treat, and dispose of all hazardous material. This includes, but isn’t limited to, sharps, prescription medications, radioactive material, trace chemo material, and all other material contaminated by blood and bodily fluids.

A reputable service may even offer OHSA training programs, HIPPA-compliant shredding, and biohazard waste disposal. Find a company that supports your efforts for safe and compliant disposal.

Use Reusable Products

Reusable products allow medical professionals to use certain tools multiple times. This cuts down significantly on the amount of medical waste produced.

When dealing with the healthcare industry, sanitation is crucial. That means only certain items can be safely and legally reused.

Some stainless steel and metal instruments can be disinfected and used more than once. Sharp containers can also be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized for reuse.

Individual manufacturers and states have different rules and regulations regarding the use of medical products. Be sure to check these laws before reusing medical equipment.

Be Smart About Waste Disposal

You might be surprised at how simple it is to reduce the amount of waste produced in a medical facility. Simple changes can make a big impact on overhead costs.

Only Use Small Waste Containers in Exam Rooms

Many patients don’t know the difference between a regular trash basket and a medical waste container. To prevent nonmedical staff from filling specialized containers with regular garbage, only use small containers that are clearly marked.

Keep all medical containers in a safe and secure location out of reach of patients to avoid overfilling with unnecessary items. Color coding also helps distinguish small waste containers from large, traditional trash cans.

Create Separate Waste Containers

If your facility has several types of medical waste containers, make sure they’re properly marked. Colors including red, yellow, black, and blue are most popular for designated medical waste.

Red sharps containers are used for needles, razors, blades, and similar objects. A red liner is most often used for biohazardous materials including IV tubing, blood products, and infectious waste.

Yellow containers are used for trace chemo products like wipes, gowns, gloves, empty needles and syringes, and other packaging. Radioactive material should be marked with a radioactive symbol and stored in a shielded container.

Black medical waste containers aren’t as common and used for hazardous medication and bulk chemo products. Prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals should be disposed of in a blue container.

Aside from color, it’s important to separate liquid and solid biomedical waste as well. Placing medical waste into categories helps isolate, manage, and dispose of them is efficient and cost-effective.

Display Clear Signage

To avoid any confusion about which waste disposal containers are for what contents, post signs that are clearly visible. Signs in designated areas act as visual reminders to both staff and patients.

Education and Diligence

The best way to cut down on medical waste disposal costs is to perform regular audits. These checks ensure that both patients and staff are properly disposing of waste using the correct containers.

Staff should also be educated about proper disposal. Make it part of their training process and offer training updates if needed.

Your facility should also have a medical disposal plan that all staff knows and follows. Not only does this plan guarantee safe waste disposal but it also ensures the health and safety of both staff and patients.

Understanding the Steps of Medical Waste Disposal

Knowing the steps needed for efficient waste disposal can help you identify areas of improvement. Here is a short breakdown of the steps your healthcare facility should take when disposing of medical and biohazardous waste.

Collection and Segregation

Collecting and segregating different types of medical waste is your first line of defense against cutting down on costs and production.

Designate specific containers that are clearly marked and display signage for both staff and patients. When medical waste is accidentally mixed with regular garbage, both become contaminated.

Storage and Transportation

Your healthcare facility needs a designated area for medical waste storage that is secure and safe from the general public. This area should be located far from any food consumption areas.

Some medical waste requires refrigeration, so be sure your storage facility is equipped with a refrigerator and freezer.

When transporting medical waste, all staff should wear protective gear and act with extreme caution.

Medical waste must be treated properly before being disposed of. Here are several treatment options.

  • Incineration: Used primarily for pathological and pharmaceutical waste
  • Thermal: Also known as autoclaving, thermal treatment is used for infectious waste and sharps but never for pharmaceutical waste
  • Chemical: Used for chemical and liquid waste
  • Biological: A new technology that is still in development, biological waste treatment may be used for disposing of toxic medical waste
  • Irradiative: Also known as microwave treatment, irradiative treatment is similar to the thermal process and used for sharps and infectious waste

Treatment of medical waste also involves handling, carting, shredding, sterilizing, compacting, and conveying different types of medical waste properly. The waste disposal company you choose will ensure you stay compliant with OSHA regulations.


Many people are surprised to learn that after careful collection and segregation, most medical waste is disposed of in municipal landfills and sanitary sewer systems.
When it comes to liquid waste disposal, most states have their own laws and regulations. The two most common ways to dispose of these materials are collecting fluids in leak-proof containers and using thermal treatment to prepare liquids for disposal in a sanitary sewer system.

Choose a Reliable Medical Waste Disposal Company Today

Disposing of medical waste properly is an important part of being a compliant, safe healthcare facility. Local laws and regulations determine how medical waste should be disposed of. But cutting down on that waste and finding cost-effective solutions is within your power.

Following these suggestions is a great first step. Your next step is to find a reliable medical waste disposal company.

Contact us today for a free quote!

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