One of the most critical aspects of healthcare is what happens to the waste generated in the process. How is it stored, how is it processed and which bins are best for the job?
By Jeniffer Coates
Medical staff use medical waste containers to dispose of waste and also to remove it from the property. Especially during times of high-volume business—such as the COVID-19 pandemic—the process must be streamlined and efficient, while still maintaining safety. Medical waste containers protect the world outside the facility from infections, punctures and other hazards.
While some professionals know exactly which bin fits their needs, many people are in the dark as to the best practices for choosing and using medical waste bins, why these processes are important and how to determine which bin is right for your property.
What Are Medical Waste Bins, and Why Do They Matter?
Medical waste bins are any of several plastic containers designed to safely dispose of medical waste. Waste management heightens safety of employees, and reduction in the risk of contamination from such material. These bins and the procedures for disposing of medical waste help limit or eliminate exposure to blood-borne pathogens and hospital-acquired infections. Waste material can be classified into four categories:
1. General: This includes non-contaminated equipment and animal tissue. This waste material is not considered a biohazard.
2. Infectious: This includes material that is even potentially infectious. It can be generated from dental practices, hospitals, laboratories, medical research facilities, physician’s offices and veterinary clinics.
3. Hazardous: Any waste that blood, body fluids or infectious material has contaminated. It can also include material that contains drugs not appropriate for all animals or humans.
4. Radioactive: Generated in diagnostic and treatment procedures. Human waste can also be considered radioactive pathological waste.
Medical waste bins can provide hands-free disposal, color-coded and labeled for easy identification. But that is not the end of the logistical challenge. They also must be easy to maneuver for individual disposal or have the ability to train multiple bins together to transport to a disposal site—without putting personnel at risk.
A Brief History of Medical Waste Disposal
As much as medical waste disposal has evolved in the past few decades, innovations and growth are a continual process. Over the years, the industry has made improvements to medical waste carts focused on supporting changes in how they are used.
Companies have stayed on the leading edge not only technologically, but also where local regulations are concerned. Starting with the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, procedures received a much-needed revamp to protect human and environmental health. The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 took actions further, especially in regulating how and where medical waste could be disposed of. Today, many bin options available help facilities remain compliant with stricter regulations.
Safe disposal of medical waste is important and how companies are doing their part to provide the best products for the job is important. But what type of waste accumulated is classified as medical waste that needs specialized disposal?:
• Culture dishes
• Discarded sharps (needles, scalpels, swabs, and tissue)
Choosing a Medical Waste Bin
Begin by selecting a bin with high standards in manufacturing and relevant features in design. The most reliable totes are made with a process known as rotational molding, or rotomolding. Plastic powder is placed in a heated, hollow mold. The mold rotates during heating and cooling, and the product shrinks as it cools for easy removal. By rotating the mold, the plastic gets dispersed evenly as it cools around the mold’s inside edges. The rotomolding process results in stress-free manufacturing, resulting in a highly durable cart with exceptional longevity.
Other key factors include:
Capacity: Not only in the amount the bin can hold, but also features such as tilt-to-roll ratio, which makes the cart easier to push without falling down, and casters, which help enable maneuverability.
Lid Style: Especially with an increase in demand for hands-free operation. Lid styles (including locking and sealable gasket lids) are critical for helping to keep material contained within the bin.
Stamping: A hot stamping process that ensures long-lasting graphics. This is important not only for branding, but also to clearly highlight what material is in each container, which may help in conforming to a locality’s regulatory requirements.
Also consider features, such as:
• Leak-free design, able to be filled with liquid contaminates or water
• Impact-resistant, with a high load rating
• Robust wheels and a quiet rolling profile
• Sealable gasket with double-walled lid
• Lockable lid
Best Practices for Managing Medical Waste Bins
Know the Rules
Special bins are required for medical waste due to the nature of the contents that goes inside. Like most big purchases, customers often conduct research before making final purchasing decisions. That research should begin with understanding state and local mandates on how to handle medical waste in your area. It is of the utmost importance to understand the requirements that impact your facility when purchasing your bin. But customers do not need to slay this dragon on their own. Container companies can provide subject matter experts who are available to provide consultation and direction for the right cart for your needs.
Prepare a Management Program
Most often, waste is channeled to a facility’s basement for proper removal. A disposal schedule, availability of appropriate gear and training, and the right capacity of tote with fitting features can make this a seamless process.
Get the Right Bin for the Job
Like all waste containers, medical waste containers also are not a one-size-fits all situation. The size depends on your need. Medical waste containers most often are available in bin sizes of 32 to 96 gallons to serve everything from small medical practices to large hospitals. These specialty bins may not innately be intuitive to use. To help alleviate this issue, signage and training on product uses can better prepare customers to get the most of their new containers.
Bin Location and Training are Key
Depending on your personnel and needs, you will need right-sized bins—but also consider where they will be. If there is a chance waste will inadvertently be placed in the wrong bin, place containers in separate locations. Think outside the box and be flexible on solutions to fit.
Use Color Codes
Especially in environments where waste is produced in more than one category, color coding can save time. Green containers can signify recycling, red for hazardous waste, etc. Consistency throughout the biggest facilities makes compliance easier.
As the awareness of medical containers continues to rise, the disposal of this sort of waste has become a strategy that needs to quickly adapt. Companies are dedicated to helping educate and provide solutions to customers in need—from small medical practices to research facilities and university hospitals. Solutions can be comprehensive and agile, with the right support.
Usages will vary for each customer. How one client uses a specific bin is not necessarily how the next will use the exact same product. Offering a wide range of features, and evolving with the customer’s needs, while continually evaluating and innovating product offerings based on industry needs and client feedback, allows for new design features that add value to a customer’s operation. | WA
Jeniffer Coates is Vice President of Product Management and Development at Wastequip (Charlotte, NC). Wastequip has an exceptional product with their Toter brand carts and they are continually adding new features, such as hands-free and step-on versions, based on feedback received from the market. Obtaining this voice of customer information allows Wastequip to innovate on product design to better help them meet their needs. If you are ready to make a move to purchasing your first or a new medical waste bin, visit www.wastequip.com/products to learn more or to find a local sales rep.