What is Medical Waste?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines medical waste as “all forms of waste generated by health care facilities”. Any object (for example bandages, syringes, bed sheets etc.) that has come into contact with any form of bodily fluid, is considered to be potentially infectious and hazardous. That makes up to 20% of medical waste generated daily, hazardous. According to the WHO, high-income countries are generating approximately 0.5 kg of hazardous waste per hospital bed (per day). Lower-income countries approximately 0.2 kg per hospital bed (per day) and the numbers are on the rise.


Disposing of such waste is not a cheap task and it is becoming a pressing issue worldwide. Air pollution has increased, transporting and handling of this waste poses potentially catastrophic risks, and landfills are filling at an astonishing rate.

The lack of awareness in the field of Medical Waste is resulting in insufficient training, the absence of regulation and sufficient waste management. This is leading to this potentially hazardous material not being prioritized enough. The end result can be felt environmentally and within communities. Each and every day, staff members and patients, as well as the general public, are being put at risk and record numbers of HIV, HEPA B and HEPA C are being contracted as a direct result of insufficient management.


Know your Medical Waste

Medical Waste and its by-products are made up of an assortment of materials. It is for this reason that the first important step of waste management, is minimizing medical waste and appropriate segregation at the source of its creation – the medical facility. By doing so, we are ensuring effective treatment and efficient control.


Non-hazardous (general waste)

General waste makes up the bulk of Medical Waste daily and it is considered waste that does not pose a risk to people or the environment (in terms of not: biological; chemical; or radioactive material). This is waste that can be dealt with in the regular municipality and with recycling.

Hazardous waste

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Infectious Waste: waste contaminated with any form of bodily fluids (e.g. discarded medical tools, lines, sample kits, laboratory cultures, bandages etc.), as well as infected waste from patients.

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Sharps Waste: sharp surgical equipment (disposable scalpels and blades), syringes, needles etc.


Pathological Waste: contaminated carcasses (animals), human tissues, organs or fluids, body parts, fetal tissue, etc.

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Pharmaceutical Waste: drugs that either expired or contaminated, unused vaccines etc.

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Cytotoxic Waste: waste containing genotoxic properties (e.g. Cancer drugs – mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic, known to be highly hazardous).

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Radioactive Waste: products contaminated by radionuclides (e.g. radiotherapeutic materials).

For more information you can download this infographic sheet: