(apologies to Dr. M and practitioners of the Dental Sciences everywhere…it’s not you, it’s me…really)

In general, when it comes to knowing and not knowing stuff, most people would rather be in the know…however, there are more than a few things that…well, nobody really needs to know about…if you know what I mean.

For example…does anybody really need to know that for the past couple of decades I’ve celebrated almost every successful dental appointment by finding the sweetest, stickiest and gooiest cinnamon bun possible…a ritual so perfected so that even on those occasions where I’ve received fluoride treatment, I arrive at a purveyor of sticky buns just after the 30-minute “nothing in mouth” window expires.

In contrast, because hazardous waste is a fact of UHN life, there are things that everybody needs to know.

For example RED and YELLOW are the colours used to designate biomedical waste.  The colour coding lets our Environmental Services colleagues and waste people outside of the hospital know what’s in the bag or container so that they can safely handle and make sure it gets shipped out for disposal appropriately.

  • YELLOW bags and sharps containers are used for biomedical waste being sent for steam sterilization, and includes blood and body fluids. Most areas in UHN will have YELLOW bags and sharps containers. Fun fact – while waste from all isolation rooms needs to be handled following routine precautions, most of it does not need to be sterilized and can go into regular waste bags. Okay, maybe not fun, but still a fact.
  • RED bags and sharps containers are used for biomedical waste being sent for incineration and includes anatomical waste, nasty infectious waste (think CJD and Eblola, don’t think C. diff, HIV, hepatitis, MRSA, etc.) and cytotoxic materials. Fun fact – because of the high use of chemotherapy drugs at Princess Margaret, all biomedical waste in Princess Margaret patient care areas is disposed of in RED bags and sharps containers. That one is kinda fun.
  • And something for everyone to know? If you’re not sure…ask!

Another thing people don’t really need to know about?  Well…while most days that I’m lucky (yes, lucky) enough to be able to cycle home from work I will at some point invariably say out loud, “this is awesome!”  However, I have been known on occasion (usually when the weather is not cooperating) to utter four-letter words…you know, like “baad wind!” and “nooo rain”.

But when it comes to pharmaceutical waste, it’s important to know that it should be disposed of in the BLUE AND WHITE “Rx” containers found in most med rooms and other various areas at UHN.  Not only does the colour coding let waste handlers inside and outside of UHN know what’s what, but using the BLUE AND WHITE Rx containers ensures that waste medications are properly destroyed and don’t end up in things like our food and water.  So, of course…if you’re not sure…ask!

And something people really don’t need to know?  While generally my musical tastes tend more towards Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s “We the Common”, on the tougher parts of my weekly-ish run home from work I have been known to give myself a little extra energy by putting Natasha B’s “These Words” on my iThingie…a song that, although definitely catchy and able to bring a spring to my lagging step, is not necessarily something one wants to hear sung by an out-of-breath jogger as they try to relax and focus their muscles for the homestretch.

However, when it comes to chemical waste, which includes not only lab chemicals, but also cleaning and maintenance products, clearly labelling containers with their contents is essential to their safe and proper disposal…because even seasoned Environmental Services colleagues and waste people outside of the hospital don’t want to pick-up a “funny blue liquid found in that bottle that’s been sitting at the back of the shelf since who knows when”.  Research and LMP labs…you’ve got some additional procedures which are really good.  Everyone else…if you’re not sure…ask!

So, sticky buns and pop songs…not so important to know.  But with hazardous waste, we all need to be in the know…so if you’re not sure…ask!


Supporting Patient Care Through A Sustainable Environment

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