Minimization, Recycling of Medical Waste
The reduction of waste generation must be encouraged by the following practices:
Reducing the amount of waste at source
• Choosing products that generate less waste: less wrapping material, for example.
• Choosing suppliers who take back empty containers for refilling (cleaning products); returning gas cylinders to the supplier for refilling.
• Preventing wastage: in the course of care, for example, or of cleaning activities.
• Choosing equipment that can be reused such as tableware that can be washed rather than disposable tableware.
• It is prohibited to reuse needles or syringes. The plastic part of syringes is recycled in some regions, but this practice is not recommended in ICRC contexts
Purchasing policy geared to minimizing risks
• Purchase of PVC-free equipment (choosing PET, PE, or PP)—see Health-Care Without Harm site.1110.
• Purchase of mercury-free equipment: mercury-free thermometers (ICRC standards), (mercury-free blood-pressure gauges).
• If possible, purchase of new safe injection and bloodsampling systems (where the needle is withdrawn automatically).
• Opting for the least toxic products (cleaning products, for example).
• Recycling of batteries, paper, glass, metals, and plastic.
• Composting of plant waste (kitchen and garden wastes).
• Recycling of the silver used in photographic processing.
• Recovering energy for water heating for example.
• Centralized purchasing.
• Chemical and pharmaceutical stock management aiming to avoid a build-up of expired or unused items: “first-in—first out” stock management, expiry date monitoring.
• Choice of suppliers according to how promptly they deliver small quantities and whether unused goods can be returned.
• Health-care waste includes a large component of general waste and a smaller proportion of hazardous waste. This chapter addresses the potential hazards of exposure to hazardous (or risk) health-care waste.
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