Many tons of bio-waste are produced everyday in hospitals, health clinics, care homes, nursing homes, medical research laboratories, dentists , vets, GP surgeries, schools and colleges. This waste is distinct from normal household rubbish and it has to be properly disposed of to prevent infection from spreading. There are different means for disposing of different types of bio-waste. Incineration is used for pathological waste, such as used wound dressings, body parts, blood and body fluids and used sharps. All that is left after incineration is ash. Autoclaving is for used sharps, discarded petri dishes, aprons and gloves.
An autoclave uses stem generated under pressure and reaches a temperature of about 120 degrees centigrade. This reduces the microbiological load to a level where it can be disposed of safely. The same autoclaves must not be used to sterilise waste and to sterilise supplies. Microwave radiation is used for sharps, including needles, lancets and scalpels. Chemical treatment is used for chemicals that have been used to clean labs, operating theatres or wards.
Bleach can also be used to disinfect bio-waste. Bio-waste has to be properly managed to protect workers, the general public and the environment. Large hospitals or university research labs may have on-site disposable facilities. However, as these are expensive, smaller establishments may package and transport their waste for treatment. To do this, they may employ a bio-waste disposal service, whose employers are trained to safely take away the waste I special containers that are leak-proof and clearly marked with biohazard symbols.
Workers handling the waste must observe standard precautions. In the UK, clinical waste and the way it is handled is closely regulated. Legislation includes the Environment Protect Act 1990 (part ii), Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 and Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005.