Hazardous waste is a small percentage of a hospital’s total generated waste, but it has a big impact on the waste management budget, costing on average more than 15 percent of total waste spending.
Hospitals need to have a clear understanding of how much hazardous waste they generate as different rules apply based on this total. It is also important to understand the federal and state laws that govern the definition and disposal of this costly waste stream.
Hazardous waste is a common byproduct of many hospital operations. Departments that frequently use chemicals classified as hazardous and therefore in need of special handling for disposal include:
● Pathology laboratory
● Histology laboratory
● Engineering and maintenance
● Emergency department
Certain common types of hazardous waste may not require as stringent disposal practices as others and may be eligible for recycling, according to EPA’s Universal Waste Program, including batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps and light bulbs. These universal waste rules, however, depend on state and local regulations which may be more strict.
Practice Greenhealth members who have successfully reduced their hazardous waste output have done so by accurately identifying all the sources of hazardous and universal waste within the institution, and used that data alongside federal and state disposal guidelines to eliminate, substitute, or reprocess toxic compounds. Universal wastes can be recycled to reduce hazardous waste generation rate.