Unfortunate Inspiration

 You know, sometimes these Talkin’ Trash bits seem to write themselves and other times…well, they have to be dragged from some forgotten and perhaps somewhat trashy corner of the mind. The latter was the case when I sat down at my computer, a shot of free-range single-malt pomegranate juice at my side for motivation, to write the newsletter you now read. The topic, biomedical waste; the words I needed to write, despite the exhilarating topic…blank.

But then, sadly, I was hit by a bolt of inspiration… Well, not exactly inspiration, but an email, and sadly…well, sadly because the email informed me of an incident where one of our Housekeepers received an injury from a needle that had been improperly disposed of in the garbage. Fortunately, in this case, someone with intimate knowledge of the offending sharp was in the area and was able to confirm that the needle had not come into contact with a patient or medication…but because biomedical waste is a fact of UHN life, and I need to write this newsletter…

A Few Reminders On Biomedical Waste

  • All needles, even if unused and still in their original packaging, must be disposed of in a sharps container. In this instance, we were able to determine that the needle was unused, but in most cases, we don’t have that information.
  • YELLOW and RED are the colour of bags and containers used to collect biomedical waste. Yellow bags are sent for autoclaving (basically steam sterilization), red for incineration.
  • General isolation room waste, for C. difficile, MRSA, VRE and the like, does not need to be disposed of in yellow or red bags. Yes, routine precautions and isolation instructions need to be followed, and no, the waste, gowns, glove, etc. cannot leave isolation rooms…but the waste does not require “special treatment” before disposal.
  • Sure, you may not have enjoyed your lunch or the day’s news…but it doesn’t mean that they need to be sterilized. We pay a premium to have waste in yellow and red bags treated, and the energy used for treatment adds to our environmental impact, so please use yellow and red bags for biomedical waste only.
  • Urine, feces and diapers, unless visibly contaminated with blood, do not need to be disposed of in yellow or red bags. Yes, they’re icky, and yes we need to make sure that we don’t have a spill or make a mess when disposing, but no…the waste does not need to be sterilized.
  • Don’t ask me why, but cytotoxic waste is considered biomedical waste. Cytotoxic waste must be incinerated, and cannot be sent for autoclaving (you can ask me about that one, if you’d like). At PMH, all biomedical waste from patient care areas is sent for incineration as cytotoxic waste…but at TGH and TWH, if you have cytotoxic waste, special arrangements must be made to have it placed in red bags or containers for disposal.
  • According to the Ministry of the Environment, and their inspectors who hand out fines and the like, waste drugs cannot be placed in yellow or red bags and containers. We now have white drug disposal bins for pharmaceutical waste…please use appropriately, and get in touch with any questions.


Links To The Inside (work only on UHN Network computers)

  • What’s that…you’re not one of the 2,500 UHNers that Energy & Environment spoke to last year on all things green? Fear not – you can now catch Kady and I on our brand spanking new eLearning module, available through our amazing eLearning Centre at http://intranet.uhn.ca/education/elearning/. No avatars for us yet…but this is virtually the next best thing.
  • Everything you need to know about biomedical waste is available on the Energy & Environment intranet page at http://intranet.uhn.ca/departments/enviro/. And if it’s not everything you need to know…get in touch.
  • Fortunately incidents involving biomedical waste are way down…get the latest numbers and more in the 2010 Energy & Environment Annual Report, online at http://documents.uhn.ca/sites/UHN/Environmental_Management/Forms/ReaderView.aspx?RootFolder=/sites/uhn/Environmental_Management/Annual%20Report.
  • UHN’s Volunteers are an integral part of UHN, and now they’re able to play a key role in our battery recycling program. Speak to your departmental Volunteer, or contact Volunteer Resources if you don’t have one, for assistance in taking batteries (and batteries only, please) to our collection bins. Please note, Volunteers will only be able to help if the batteries are in good condition (i.e., not leaking) and are not too heavy.

Links To The Outside

  • What the…? Another election already? Well, this time ’round the environment may not be as hot a topic as, say, who’s going to form a coalition with who (because, you know, working together is a horrible thing), but the environment is still going to be there giving us stuff like clean air, fresh water and yummy food. And this time ’round, several environmental groups did decide to work together and asked the five major parties to respond to 10 questions on environmental issues…the responses are posted at http://environmentaldefence.ca/election-2011-where-do-parties-stand-environmental-issues. Please note, aside from a general encouragement to all to take advantage of our privilege and ability to vote without risking our safety, Talkin’ Trash and all associated with it do not endorse, support or speak highly/lowly of any particular political party or candidate. We do, however endorse, support and speak highly of being informed, including a good Google session, complete with shot of free-range single-malt pomegranate juice if it helps.