Biomedical Waste

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 12, 2022, 13:05

Generating waste is the inevitable part of every end process. When dealing with healthcare, the quality of waste generated is massive and requires safe disposal to prevent biohazard and environmental pollution. It's also known as Biomedical Waste, which the clinics and the hospitals exceedingly generated since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since it comprises harmful swabs saturated with infections or abundant in hypodermic needles and saline bottles, it requires disposal following stringent measures with minimum human contact.

Biomedical Waste -Meaning

Clinical products used for therapeutic purposes get disposed of after single use. These comprise alloys, cotton, plastic needles, catheters, syringes, damaged scalpels and glass utensils. Besides, anatomical rejects like amputated body parts, organs, and blood-soaked cotton bandages are also considered Biomedical Waste.

Hospitals and clinics also generate expired generic medications, which have no viable return policy and hence get dumped on the hospital premises. These discarded items have high contamination and contain drugs that can have a detrimental effect if allowed to mix in the ecosystem.

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Risks of Biomedical Waste

  • Surface injuries from rejected needles and scalpels
  • Drug poisoning or skin issues when trying to use expired and rejected medications
  • Radiation injuries during manually scavenging through discarded diagnostic objects
  • Sheer risk of developing AIDS or Hepatitis B if rummaging through Biomedical Waste with an open wound.

Methods of Safe Disposal of Biomedical Waste

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and its state organisations under the MoEF follow an ideal practice of colour coding Biomedical Waste. It's an easy disposal method based on the terminal treatment it requires.

Colour classification -

  • Black (domestic waste)
  • Yellow with biohazard signs (contaminants, human body waste, infectious content and sharp discards)
  • Brown with cytotoxic marks (expired medications and chemical content that can damage skin surface upon exposure)

No contact collection -

  • Waste management workers should stay covered and masked and wear gloves and boots while collecting Biomedical Waste.
  • Use a mechanical waste collection method over handpicking
  • Use of wheelbarrow and spade or specialised waste collection vehicle to the site of disposal

Safe disposal -

Biomedical Waste must be disposed of differently based on the contents:

  • Yellow bags should get incinerated, followed by a deep burial of their remnants (containing anatomical and chemical waste)
  • Red bags (containing discarded syringes, catheters, vacutainers, surgical gloves, saline bottles) should undergo autoclaving and get utilised for energy recovery.
  • White bags (containing scalpels, needles, surgical blades) should get incinerated with a deep burial after maximum disposal.
  • Blue bags (containing broken glassware) get sterilised and then sent to recovery for recycling.

The generation of Biomedical Waste is proportional to the advancement of healthcare. While health safety is beyond compromise, it's best to develop sustainable waste management and follow methodical disposal to reduce contamination and environmental hazards.

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FAQs on Biomedical Waste

Q.1. What is the source point of Biomedical Waste generation?

Health clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and veterinary clinics generate Biomedical Waste.

Q.2. Why not dispose of Biomedical Waste at open sites?

Biomedical Waste contains acutely contaminated biohazardous and cytotoxic components. Leaving it open or burying it in a natural landfill will lead to leaching and pollution of groundwater resources and soil poisoning.

Q.3. Can Biomedical Waste cause an environmental upset?

Yes. The presence of puss, blood and decaying tissue in Biomedical Waste attracts harmful pathogens. Besides, broken glass, sharp discarded needles and catheters can harm grazing cattle or injure ragpickers rummaging through the waste.

Q.4. Can Biomedical Waste undergo reuse?

Most Biomedical Waste gets destroyed through autoclaving, incineration, and burial technique. Broken glassware like ampoules and vials undergo thorough disinfection before proceeding with recycling.

Q.5. Why is Biomedical Waste generated in vast quantities?

Biomedical Waste gets produced in excess because it follows a one-time use and discards policy to prevent any contamination chances in patients.