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General Blog

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Handling and Disposing Medical Waste in Australia


Medical waste accumulates in hospitals, clinics, laboratories and similar settings where patients are taken care of. Medical waste is highly hazardous and often gets the ominous “biohazard” label. Medical waste should be very carefully disposed of because the risk of contamination and spreading a nasty infection is high. In Australia, medical waste produced by hospitals and pathology laboratories are regulated under the Environment Protection Act of 1993. For other facilities like clinics, the regulations fall under the Environment Protection (Waste to Resources) Policy of 2010.

If your small business, like a vet clinic, produces medical waste, then it is very important to know the basics of biomedical waste management. The clinic, lab, or the hospital is responsible for handling the material until a disposal service company transports the waste. Here are several important facts to know about managing medical waste in Australia:

Understand How Medical Waste is Categorized

There are many different types of medical waste, such as human tissue samples, blood waste, fluids contaminated with diseases, animal waste, and also pharmaceutical drug waste. There are currently eight categories of medical waste: infectious, sharps, pathological, radioactive, chemical, pharmaceutical, pressurized containers, and general waste. Sharps waste refers to needles and syringes and requires being binned differently from, say, and radioactive waste. Learn more about these categorized to make sure your hospital or clinic is following the rules.

Follow Regulations for Proper Disposal

The disposal of medical waste depends on the category it belongs to. For example, solid waste, such as gloves contaminated with bodily fluids, should be put in a leak-proof container and clearly marked with biohazard tape and logo.  Liquid medical waste, such as blood, requires chemical or autoclave treatment. Sharp needles and syringes should be wiped clean with a disinfectant and permanently closed, and later picked up by a professional waste disposal service provider. Pathological waste, like organs removed during surgery, is not disposed of by incinerated. It’s very important to know how each category of waste should be handled before disposal. This is the responsibility, not of the removing contractor, but the facility that produces the waste.

Incineration is Required Only for Some Type of Waste

The EPA in the past required incineration for nearly all medical waste produced by various facilities. But incineration is now available only for some categories of waste, mainly in the pathological area. The EPA does allow alternative methods of disposal. Additionally, certain types of waste, like radioactive material, require special ways of disposal. Therefore, it’s recommended to explore all options available and choose the best method of disposal for particular types of waste. You should discuss this with the waste removal services provider.

Hire a Remediation Company for Disposal

Once the medical waste is properly contained, it’s up to the removal agency to transport the waste for disposal as required by law. When hiring a waste disposal agency, make sure the contractor specialises in medical waste. The handlers will need to know the proper methodology for disposal. In some cases, the contractor may need to know how to handle an outbreak in case there’s an accidental spill. Therefore, only hire the most reputed agencies for this job. Do not try to cut corners on cost in this area.

The above is only a very brief description of medical waste disposal. Owners of small clinics, in particular, should research further and educate staff about proper medical waste disposal.