What To Know About Medical Waste Disposal

May 27, 2022 | Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

Who generates medical waste? 

Medical Waste is generated from hospitals, pharmacies, dentists, animal services, and more. A medical waste generator is typically a person or business involved in the following activities, listed by the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health: 

  • The diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals. 
  • Research pertaining to the activities specified above. 
  • The production and testing of biological agents. 


What are the different types of medical waste? 

  • Infectious waste – includes any type of waste that may contain infectious material or have the potential to be infectious from bodily fluids or blood.  This includes bandages, gloves, swabs, tissues, lab cultures and more. 
  • Sharps – includes any type of instrument that may pierce the skin such as needles, scalpels, staples, wires, razors, lancets and more. 
  • Pathological – any type of human fluid, body part, blood or tissue including animal tissue.
  • Radioactive – any type of radiotherapy often in liquid form, also includes supplies or glassware contaminated with radioactive material 
  • Genotoxic waste – medical waste which is highly hazardous either as carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic.  Includes cytotoxic medications used in cancer treatment. 
  • Chemical waste – this includes solvents used in labs, heavy metals, disinfectants and mercury from broken thermometers 
  • Pharmaceuticals – includes all unused medications for any reason such as expired drugs or leftover drugs from a patient leaving the hospital and encompasses pills, injectables, lozenges, patches, liquids and other pharmaceutical medications.  
  • Non-regulated, general medical waste – this category includes non-hazardous medical waste which does not pose any risk with physical, biological, chemical or radioactive danger. 


Why is it important to get rid of medical waste? 

Improper disposal of medical waste is a community safety hazard that can leave people sick or infected, and also has the potential to create negative impacts on the environment. Medical waste became a popular topic in the 1980s when it was washing up on multiple east coast beaches. Following that, in the 1990s, the EPA put medical waste standards in place due to concerns over healthy air quality.  

Medical waste can be dangerous if it contains one or more of these characteristics: 

  • Infectious agents
  • It is genotoxic, meaning the property of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer
  • It contains toxic or hazardous chemicals or pharmaceuticals
  • It is radioactive
  • It contains sharps


How can I properly dispose of Pharmaceutical Waste? 

It is the responsibility of each distributor, reverse distributor, facility and end user to meet the guidelines of their facility, local, state, tribal and federal regulatory agencies for proper drug disposal.  

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Department of Justice, outlines the rules to govern the secure disposal of controlled substances by registrants and ultimate users in 21 CFR Parts 1300, 1301, 1304, 1305, 1307, and 1317, effective September 9, 2014.  

Rx Destroyer™ offers medication disposal that is compliant with the DEA chemical digestion method, including consultations and solutions that meet the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21, 40 and 42 for regulated medical waste disposal.