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How the Medical Waste Industry Manages Covid

In these challenging times medical professionals have questions regarding not only the source of their professional equipment, but the destination of such equipment once it has been used. While local and federal governments manage the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for each and every hospital, the responsibility for the safe disposal of Covid 19 medical waste lies with the medical waste company working with the hospital. Consistent with safe businesses practices that have seen widespread adoption throughout the medical industry, the workers who dispose of this medical waste are equipped with appropriate PPE and hand sanitizer. This has so far been effective in minimizing contagion, as well as ensuring the well-being of these essential workers maintaining the logistics that keep our medical industry running. 

Besides this, many states in the United States have consulted epidemiologists and put forth guidelines for the medical industry regarding disposing of Covid 19 medical waste. Such guidelines and precautions specifically mentioned as being employed by the United States are far from exclusive to the USA. Across Europe and Asia, as well, the disposal of Covid 19 medical waste is facing strict treatment, containment, and transportation protocols to ensure the virus is not spread while in transit. Indeed, popular response has been unanimous as people globally adopt social distancing practices and self-isolation, however there is great variety among world governments in their way of disposing of medical waste that is potentially contagious with the Covid 19 virus. In the following blog post we will be exploring how Covid 19 medical waste is handled globally in a language that makes sense to men and women in the medical field.

Due to the scale of this pandemic and the unprecedented temporary shutdown of many businesses, medical waste companies in the United States are consulting with Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) healthcare experts in order to securely dispose of Covid 19 medical waste. Because of the sudden onset of the pandemic, many of the processes of disposal are still being handled manually across the world. However, in spite of this, the United States has not yet encountered unmanageable quantities of Covid medical waste. In the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan in China, however, such waste management is not so adeptly managed, with reports of up to 240 tons of medical waste produced a day, compared to 40 tons a day previous to the Covid outbreak. 

Spain, struggling to keep up with the influx of medical waste, has repurposed three urban garbage plants in Catalonia. While globally the disposal of Covid 19 medical waste is keeping pace with the need of its disposal, many workers in the medical waste disposal industry are facing long hours. Across the world many public servants are having their job’s highest priority adapt temporarily to manage the spread of Covid 19, such as police in the United States and Europe now enforcing social distancing and quarantine laws. In Wuhan, for instance, firefighters are transporting medical waste to designated sites, equipped with all the necessary PPE, while the environmental protection department handles the disposal process. All over the planet, governments are reacting and adapting to bolster the medical waste disposal industry’s ability to react to this pandemic both safely and effectively.

In the United States, however, all potentially contagious medical waste is required to be sterilized before transported. Typically such sterilization of medical waste is done in one of three ways. The two most common methods used to sterilize contagious medical waste before transporting it in the US are steam-sterilization, also known as an autoclave, and incineration. The third, less common method for sterilization of medical waste is the application of chemical disinfectants. In the situations where this disinfection before transportation is not possible, stricter packaging standards are adhered to, instead, ensuring the safety of the general public. 

While the Department of Transportation in the United States has no special requirements for the transportation of Covid 19-related medical waste, routine procedures in place for the transportation of all medical waste and sharps has been sufficient for its safe transportation. Existing procedures required for the disinfection of ALL medical waste has proved sufficient to prevent the spread of Covid 19 to workers in the medical waste disposal industry. 

As such, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has advised that the management of laundry, food service utensils, and medical waste should be performed in accordance with routine procedures. The CDC has further determined that the wastewater and sewage industries require no further precautions, as current disinfection conditions in wastewater treatment facilities are expected to be sufficient for the safety of the workers.

Considering the viral nature of Covid-19, it’s of pressing importance to be aware of how medical waste that has been in contact with Covid-positive patients is disposed of. While the CDC says that Covid-related medical waste can be disposed of in the same way as other medical waste, local government and Federal guidelines are still taking further precautions to ensure the safety of the public. 

The regulation of waste disposal is managed by a State government’s health and environment department. Besides state government oversight, further oversight and expert safety guidelines are provided by both OSHA and the Department of Transportation(DoT), in order to ensure the safety of medical waste company employees and the general public. Further it is advised by the World Health Organization(WHO) that people handling medical waste should wear appropriate protective gear, which means thick gloves, boots, long-sleeved gowns, masks, aprons, and goggles or face shields. 

Undoubtedly these precautionary measures have prevented unnecessary contagion to front-line medical workers and those in the business of disposing medical waste. As the healthcare industry continues to manage this global pandemic, men and women in the medical field should find it reassuring to know that medical waste is being disposed of responsibly. Knowing that Covid 19 medical waste disposal is regulated in a way that is safe for the public, and workers in the medical industry, we can sigh a breath of collective relief.

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