Hand with blue latex glove throws syringe into yellow waste container in hospital

Common Medical Wastes And How To Treat Them


The creation of medical waste is an unavoidable side-effect of having a health care system. To put it another way, every time you treat a patient, you can’t help but generate some medical waste. This waste can have severe repercussions for the environment and public health if left untreated, or treated ineffectively. This is why medical waste treatment should be recognized as a vital part of the medical care process.

Medical waste comes in a variety of forms, including; samples and swabs taken from patients, test tubes, syringes, discharged bandages, etc. Medical waste treatment methods include autoclaves, incineration and microwaves. However, these traditional methods have their limitations when it comes to:

  • Effectiveness / validation of treatment
  • Sustainability
  • Cost
  • Convenience

The Envomed 80 is an on-site medical waste treatment solution that has been engineered to address all of these limitations. We’ll explain how, later in this article.


Types Of Medical Waste

Medical waste comes in many forms. Thus, methods of treating medical waste vary accordingly. Infectious and sharps medical waste, for example, have a high potential for harm to public health if not treated effectively.


Infectious And Sharp medical waste

Infectious waste is medical waste that has been contaminated with pathogenic agents. The source of these pathogenic agents is usually blood and other bodily fluids from the human body (or other animals).

Diagnostic or autopsy samples and bandages removed from a site of infection are actual examples of infectious waste. Recently, the discarded swab sticks used to obtain COVID-19 samples, the discarded PPE, and masks by doctors and healthcare professionals have found to be infectious waste.

Another necessary type of medical waste is sharp waste, such as syringes, blades, scalpels, injection needles, suture needles, etc. Such sharp objects often contain deadly diseases from infected patients. And if a healthy person accidentally received a cut from them, they can become infected too.


Other Types Of Medical Waste

Human tissues and body fluids are pathological wastes, such as blood, urine, or stool samples of a diseased individual. Then there are chemical wastes, such as the various reagents and solvents used in laboratory techniques, and disinfection.

Expired or faulty drugs and vaccines are pharmaceutical waste. Among these drugs, the ones with cell destroying capabilities (cancer drugs) are cytotoxic waste. And the radioactive substances used in radiotherapy and radioactive diagnosis are radioactive wastes.


Public Health Risks From Ineffective Treatment Of Medical Waste

Effective medical waste treatment is essential for the safety of the public health. In the worst case, ineffective treatment of the waste could result in an outbreak of various dangerous diseases. Let’s look at the potential risks of ineffective medical waste treatment.

The most well-known risk of medical waste is the spread of diseases. For instance, if the PPE, masks, or swab sticks used in a COVID-19 ward are not disposed of properly, there is a very high risk of spread in that locality.

Similarly, other deadly microorganisms, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria or some new viruses, can escalate from being simple medical waste, to a real public threat, if it is left untreated or treated ineffectively.

Another important example is the spread of deadly diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C, and B infections. Particularly in developing countries where sharp medical waste treatment practices are not yet fully developed, contaminated needles and other sharp objects give rise to new cases.

Moreover, the release of pharmaceutical wastes such as antibiotics can give rise to antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Not to mention that these kinds of pharmaceutical waste can also damage the environment.

Improper medical waste management can also contaminate the water, air, and soil. As a result, the ill effects can manifest even in drinking water and crops.


Current Methods Of Medical Waste Treatment

The most well-known methods of medical waste treatment include incineration, autoclaving, microwaving, or the use of chemical agents. All these methods apply heat to kill microorganisms.


Incineration, Autoclaving, And Microwave

The incineration process mostly burns medical waste at high temperatures that can range from 1,800°F to 2,000°F (982°C to 1093°C) . Although this is an easy way to deal with medical waste, there are concerns about the process’s impact on the environment.

Autoclaving also uses heat to treat medical waste. However, instead of burning, the heat comes from steam. Before going to the landfill, autoclaving rids the medical waste of potential pathogens. It is less expensive than incineration.

Microwave technology can also remove pathogens from medical waste. Here, in most cases, the waste undergoes shredding first. After that, there is the addition of water and subsequent heating.


The Limitations Of The Current Methods

Autoclaves and microwave technology are popular and effective ways to treat medical waste. However, they do have their limitations. For instance, these methods fall significantly behind when dealing with Liquid Waste.

During autoclaving, the process removes air from the medical waste to reduce hollow spaces. So that steam can effectively penetrate the load to sterilize all surfaces properly.

But for the liquid phase the steam will be used as a medium to heat the liquids. Since the mix and volume will vary from batch to batch the validation process (of temperature and duration) is challenging. Therefore, to be on the safe side and to effectively sterilize the liquid waste, the autoclave must apply high heat (1300-1410C) and high pressure for a long duration. Maintaining such high heat for an extended period is often impossible in on-site autoclaves.

Also, autoclaves and microwaves have slow cycle times. Plus, they have high installation and maintenance costs. There is also the potential for these treatment options to generate toxic fumes with bad odor as side effect.

Validation of the sterilization process is also a major issue here. Because there is no way to tell whether the liquid phase has remained within the effective sterilization temperature range for the duration of treatment (1300-1410C), it is difficult to ascertain whether the liquid phase of the waste has been sterilized completely.

The Envomed 80 has been engineered to tackle all of these challenges, and in doing so, revolutionize the world of medical waste treatment.


Envomed 80: The validatable, sustainable on-site solution to medical waste treatment

The Envomed 80 is an on-site medical and infectious treatment solution that treats up to 80 liters of medical and infectious waste in under 20 minutes.

It guarantees effective sterilization of the waste by performing the entire disinfection process in a liquid phase, using Biocetic – a sustainable liquid disinfection solution diluted in water.

The solid waste is shredded to a confetti shape which is mixed vigorously with the disinfecting solution together with the waste liquid phase.


Liquids pose no problem

There is no need to remove the air from the chamber

No extreme temperatures, pressure and vacuum are used

There is no pause in between cycles – the next cycle may start immediately

The Envomed 80 offers fully validated and reproducible sterilization results.

The waste is sterilized to STAATT IV, and Envomed provides validation and verification kits in order to test and demonstrate the results – removing the risk to public health and the environment.

The Envomed 80 sterilization process is completely environmentally friendly, with no harmful emissions. As the treatment is carried out completely on-site, hospitals and healthcare centers can save money on outsourcing and transporting waste too.

To find out more about how the Envomed 80 is revolutionizing waste treatment processes across the globe, head to www.Envomed.com.