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Types of Medical Waste and Their Sources

medical waste

On average, first world countries generate half a kilo of hazardous waste per hospital bed per day. Third world countries generate about 0.2kg per bed per day. However, the figures for third world countries may be incorrect as the waste is often not separated as it should be.

Healthcare facilities generate vast quantities of various waste products:

  • Infectious waste- linen and materials contaminated with blood, urine or other fluids form the bulk of infectious waste. This may be in the form of used swabs, bandages, diapers or dressings. It also includes lab cultures, autopsy waste, and dead lab animals.
  • Pathological waste- this incorporates human body parts, tissues and organs. In the veterinary sector, it includes contaminated animal carcasses.
  • Sharps- sharps waste consists of used needles, scalpels, blades or insulin syringes.
  • Chemical waste- this refers to chemicals in the form of reagents and solvents from lab work, disinfectants used for cleaning, and heavy metals like mercury used in medical instruments and dental amalgam.
  • Pharmaceutical waste- this includes any unused medicines and vaccines.
  • Cytotoxic waste- found in cancer treatments, for example
  • General waste- everyday waste such as kitchen scraps that do not pose a health risk if disposed of in the normal trash

The main sources of waste in the healthcare sector are:

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Care facilities for the elderly
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Mortuaries and autopsy labs
  • Animal testing labs
  • Blood banks