Medical sharps waste can be extremely hazardous. As such, its disposal has to be treated with the utmost safety and care. Of course, whether the generated waste is considered infectious or not, appropriate medical waste management and disposal is always the responsibility of the facility that generated the waste in question. Still, some types of biomedical waste (like sharps) are more dangerous towards humans and the environment than others, and need to be treated differently than the rest.
What is sharps waste and why is its disposal so important?
“Sharps” is essentially the medical term for all materials that have sharp points and/or edges that may cause puncture wounds or cut the skin. The majority of sharps waste comes from the billions of injections given to patients each year. This is understandable, since vaccinations are still the only way to treat certain diseases.
Examples of sharps waste include:
- Needles: mainly used to inject medications under the skin of patients.
- Scalpels: also known as lancets or “fingersticks”, scalpels are short instruments with a double-edged blade that are used to get drops of blood for testing, or perform surgical operations.
- Auto injectors: pre-filled syringes that contain fluid medication for self-injection (e.g. insulin pens).
- Infusion sets: tubing systems that use needles to deliver certain types of drugs to the body.
- Connection needle sets: generally used in hemodialysis treatments, the needles for these types of medical equipment help transfer fluids in and out of the patients’ body.
Due to the context in which they are used, sharps can easily be contaminated with infectious pathogens. Combined with their ability to pierce and cut the skin, sharps are easily ranked among the most dangerous types of hazardous medical waste.
Sharps waste disposal with an on-site medical waste shredder
For the decontamination of sharps, most medical waste disposal companies offer steam sterilizers (also known as autoclaves), or medical waste shredders. However, certain companies (like for example Celitron) also have products that work as a “2 in 1” solution, incorporating the benefits of both steam sterilization and shredding. Tools like these go by the name of “ISS”, which is short for Integrated Sterilizer and Shredder.
Thanks to the combination of steam sterilization and shredding, even the most hazardous medical waste can be rendered sterile, and then disposed of as any other kind of garbage. The unbelievably powerful blades reduce the volume of the waste down to 20%, and all liquid components are steamed out, re-condensed, and then drained to a municipal sewer.
No need to go anywhere, since this counts as an on-site equipment. It can easily accommodate any kind of medical facility, so even smaller clinics don’t have to worry about trying to find place for an enormous machine: you can find models with 25 liter capacity, but if you’re a huge hospital that produces an enormous amount of hazardous medical waste daily, then you can even go with a 560 liter capacity model.
Their popularity is undeniable: they are already present in over 40 countries!