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What Are the Different Types of Medical Waste Services?

Some medical waste is incinerated after use.
Some companies specialize in collecting and destroying sharp waste such as needles and disposable scalpels.
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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Medical waste is an unfortunate byproduct of operating a hospital, doctor's office, dentist's office or medical clinic. Various bodily fluids, solids and surgical instruments must be disposed of in a specific way, so as not to contaminate the environment or spread disease. There are four primary medical waste services that handle the gamut of waste from these institutions. Incineration, steam sterilization, on-site disposal into the sewage system, and off-site handling each take care of specific types of waste.

Incineration is one of the most common and oldest forms of medical waste services available to the medical community. This service is either performed on the premises of a large medical facility, like a hospital, or handled by a medical waste management company. A medical waste incinerator is a large furnace that reaches such a high temperature that all germs, microbes and bacteria are destroyed along with the physical item entering the fire. Commonly, incineration is reserved for pathological waste, like body parts and organs, because there are few other methods for safely disposing of these items.

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Steam sterilization is another method of dealing with medical waste that nearly all institutions handle themselves. These medical waste services are often implemented to counteract microorganisms and contaminated surgical tools. Steam sterilizing consists of placing the infected items inside a large metal container that seals itself shut. Inside the container, steam pressure and heat are applied, not unlike a pressure cooker, and the harmful agents are neutralized by the high temperature. In the case of medical instruments, these items are actually safe to reuse.

Many medical waste byproducts are not very dangerous and can be reintroduced to the general public waste system. Liquid waste, like human blood and fluids, is chemically treated and released into the sewage system for further processing at a sewage treatment facility. These medical waste services are usually performed by the medical facility because the process is relatively simple and the danger level is low.

Finally, many complex medical waste services are performed by professional off-site disposal companies. These organizations specialize in dealing with waste in a clean, professional manner. Often, these companies deal with large quantities of waste that medical institutions cannot handle, such as blood and human remains. These service providers have several methods available to dispose of these potentially harmful elements. Large scale incineration is one option these companies provide, and another is safely sealing and burying waste in secure landfills.

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