Top Ten Myths About Biomedical Waste
Myth #1 – diapers need to be disposed of as biomedical waste: Incorrect! Urine and feces (including diapers and urine collection containers) can go in the regular garbage unless visibly contaminated with blood. Yes, diapers should be disposed of safely and with consideration for our Housekeepers, but no, they don’t need to be sterilized.
Myth #2 – all biomedical waste from UHN is incinerated: Incorrect! Most (more than 75%) biomedical waste from our hospitals is actually sent for sterilization through autoclaving…that is, treatment with high temperature, high pressure steam. The only waste that is sent for incineration is cytotoxic waste, anatomical waste and nasty, nasty “infectious” waste, such as from CJD and Ebola patients.
Myth #3 – biomedical waste is colour blind: Incorrect! Biomedical waste is collected in yellow bags/containers for waste that is destined for steam sterilization or red bags/containers for waste that is destined for incineration. Red bags/containers usually require additional labelling to differentiate between cytotoxic, anatomical and “infectious” (again, things like Ebola and CJD) waste.
Myth #4 – waste from isolation rooms should be disposed of as biomedical waste: Incorrect! While we want to avoid exposure to things such as MRSA, TB and C. difficile when at work, and practice routine precautions, there is no requirement to sterilize such waste…only things that would normally be disposed of in a yellow bag/container or a red bag/container (e.g. blood waste, sharps, etc.) should be disposed of as biomedical waste.
Myth #5 – Ed lost his hair worrying about biomedical waste: Incorrect! It probably has more to do with being a Leaf fan. Go Jays!
Myth #6 – unused needles, or needles used only for sterile water, can go in the regular garbage: Incorrect! All waste sharps, including those with their safety device activated, must be disposed of in a sharps containers – while you may know that the needle you’re disposing is unused, the person getting stuck by that needle, in addition to having a hole made in their body, has no idea what the need has been used for.
Myth #7 – left over medications can be disposed of in sharps containers: Incorrect! Actually, it’s not allowed to dispose of pharmaceutical waste in red/yellow sharps containers and it’s not good practice (and against the law some instances) to dispose of waste drugs down the drain or in the regular garbage…which is why we have white & blue drug disposal bins. Don’t have one in your areas? Get in touch.
Myth #8 – coffee cups can be recycled: Incorrect! I’m trying really hard not to make a bad joke about bad coffee being classified as biomedical waste…but we’re seeing so many disposable coffee cups ending up in the recycling bin that it’s worthwhile reminding that coffee cups are garbage. Better yet, get yourself a reusable travel mug.
Myth #9 – Yellow bags and red bags are the perfect place to put old newspapers: Incorrect! Waste disposed on in yellow bags or red bags costs 7 to 10 times as much as regular garbage…that’s a lot of money to unnecessarily sterilize the news, no matter how bad it is. Besides, you should really be recycling that newspaper…UHN gets money by selling paper for recycling.
Myth #10 – urine collection containers need to be disposed of as biomedical waste: Incorrect! Urine and feces (including diapers and urine collection containers) can go in the regular garbage unless visibly contaminated with blood. Yes, urine collection containers should be disposed of safely and with consideration for our Housekeepers, but no, they don’t need to be sterilized.
Links to 80s Pop (And A Contest Winner)
Congratulations to Stacey from Spinal Cord Rehab who put the jitterbug into our hearts, and took home a programmable power bar and a couple of LED lights, for her winning #NameMyTLC contest entry: “Turn It Off Before You Go-Go”. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest, voted and, most importantly, turned-off. Stay tuned for long weekend reminders…and if we find that more encouragement is needed, perhaps some 80s hair, outfits and dancing ala Wham, though I’m not sure if this is a “carrot” or a “stick”, to be honest.