Questions and Answers

1) What should I do if I have medical waste?

If you are not a regular producer but just have occasional or one-time waste, contact a medical waste disposal company that serves your area. You can find one in the phone book or an internet search or you can ask for referrals at a medical or veterinary clinic.

Don't bother asking the medical or veterinary clinic if you can put your waste in their disposal container. The medical waste company must know the origin and chain of custody of the waste. You can't piggy-back on someone else who has waste.

Don't try to skirt regulations and dump your waste illegally. It's risky and unethical. Don't think you can "play dumb" if caught either. This rarely works

2) If the disposal is just going to be incineration, why can't I do that myself in my autoclave?

Even if you have a laboratory grade autoclave, you probably can't follow the best practices of waste incinerators. In particular, how will you handle the smoke or off-gas? Autoclaves are designed to sterilize equipment that is already clean, not to burn waste.

Having said that, a good deal of infectious waste is deactivated in hospital autoclaves. It can be done, but make sure the waste you put in the autoclave is appropriate for this type of treatment.

3) Does old prescription medication count as medical waste?

It depends on who you are. If you are an operating business - for profit or not-for-profit - then yes, pharmaceutical waste requires special treatment and disposal.

For household use, no. The drugs are potentially harmful to people and animals but they do not typically have live cultures. The disposal of medicines requires some special attention, though. It is usually legal to put it in the household trash (check you local laws to make certain), but responsible disposal calls for a little more attention.

Some communities have Drug Take-Back Days during which they set up collection spots for old medicine. If you put it in your regular trash, mix if with coffee grounds, kitty litter, sawdust, or other repugnant material to make the medicine less appealing for pets, children, and interlopers who may be going through your trash. Put the mixture in a plastic bag and seal before putting everything in the large garbage bag or container.

4) Is medical waste really so bad?

Most of it is the same as household or office waste. But exposure to some types of waste can result in disease or injury to humans and assault on the environment. What makes medical waste dangerous? Waste that is infectious, genotoxic, or radioactive is of concern. Sharps waste can produce injuries, and any waste that has hazardous constituents or pharmaceuticals must be handled appropriately.

5) Is dog manure medical waste?

No. It is more like what you normally flush down the toilet. Actually, you could flush dog manure down the toilet, but most municipal waste collection agencies will accept it in normal household trash. This waste contains e. coli and perhaps pathogens, but a limited amount of manure is deemed acceptable in the municipal solid waste stream that goes to a sanitary landfill.

Conclusion: either leave your dog manure on the lawn, in the woods, etc. or put it in your trash. Animal feces from laboratories is usually treated as pathological waste. It may have unusual components, and even if it doesn’t the waste management authorities at these facilities usually ask researchers to put manure in pathological waste containers.