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Biological Waste Disposal For Veterinarians

Biological Waste Disposal For Veterinarians

How is Biological Waste Defined in a Veterinary Practice?

Veterinarians are held to the same standards as physicians and medical facilities when it comes to the safe handling of biological waste. This starts at the source of the medical waste and does not end until it has been properly disposed of in a way that does not pose any type of risk to humans or the environment. Understanding what constitutes as biological waste in your veterinary practice is the first step towards its proper collection and disposal.

It seems easy enough, as the word waste typically refers to anything that we no longer have use or need for, but waste is more complicated at the medical level. This is due primarily to the possibility of bloodborne pathogens being present in the waste which could pose the threat of spreading an infectious disease. Animal biological waste is not exempt from the special standards in place for its reintroduction into the environment.

Solid Waste

The EPA defines all solid waste as being any garbage or refuse generated inside of a veterinary office. This would include animal tissue, fluids, carcasses, laboratory chemicals, syringes, medical supply waste, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs and equipment, light bulbs, batteries and mercury found in thermometers. This is a very broad category, but the EPA further breaks it down into two sub-categories; hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste. Typical medical waste generated by the practices of veterinarians will fall under the non-hazardous category and would include things such as:

  • Animal bedding
  • Wound dressings
  • Syringes
  • Tissue samples

Where it may get confusing for a veterinarian is that while these are not considered “hazardous” wastes in the way that some solvents, drugs and batteries are, they may be considered a “bio-hazard”. Bio-hazardous medical waste is defined as material that could potentially contain infectious disease pathogens that pose a health risk those who come into contact with it. Almost all of the waste generated during routine treatment of animals in your practice should be classified as a bio-hazard to eliminate any risk of potentially spreading a bloodborne disease.

Bio-hazardous waste is also referred to as regulated medical waste and includes the following:

  • The equipment, instruments and tools of a disposable nature that have been used in the diagnosis or treatment of an animal who is suspected of having a communicable disease.
  • Tissues, blood samples and other excretions taken from a patient and used to help diagnose an infection or disease.
  • Any specimens removed during surgery of the animal.

Special disposal practices are required for the various forms of biological waste that a veterinarian is generating in their day to day practices. The complications in definitions and various procedures necessitate a professional biological waste disposal company to assist you in segregating and disposing of waste in a way that is in full compliance with local laws, yet does not interfere with patient care.

Medical Waste Disposal for Veterinarians

Medical Waste Disposal for Veterinarians

The Reason Behind Medical Waste Container Labeling

All medical waste generated in California is governed by the California Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA) and your local authorities. It is the MWMA which has mandated the safe labeling of medical waste containers after reports that some were being washed ashore after being dumped into the ocean. Other medical waste containers were found in landfills, posing a serious health risk to California residents.

Since then, laws have been put into place that require veterinarians and any other health facility to properly label all containers before they are transported out of the facility.

The Name, Address and Phone Number Requirement

All of the primary containers inside of a veterinarian’s office that accumulate medical waste must contain the name, address and telephone number of the facility. The only exception to this rule are bench top red bags that are used only to collect pipette tips that are non-breakable. All other medical waste must be inside of a container that contains the veterinarian’s information before it can leave the building.

By placing the name of the generator of the biological waste on the transport company, the authorities will know who to hold accountable if it is found inside of a typical trash bin, dumpster, or other inappropriate location. If found, the authorities will return the biological waste to the veterinarian office and possibly fine the establishment for unsafe handling practices.

Pre-printed labels or even bar codes that identify your veterinarian office are permitted, so long as the information is traced directly back to the source of the medical waste. Bench top red bags are excluded from this provision only when they are gathered and stored inside of a larger red bag that is labeled correctly. Medical waste disposal companies in California can assist administrators in a veterinary clinic in the proper form for filling out the labels and affixing them to the red bags, sharps containers and other containers if necessary.

In addition to having the medical waste generator’s name and contact information on the container, it also must be clearly marked as medical waste, and the type. A sharps container must be labeled as such, warning of the presence of objects which can easily pierce skin and spread bloodborne pathogens.

The Responsibility of Your Medical Waste Disposal Company

The easiest way for a veterinary office to stay compliant with the laws and avoid any fines is by partnering with a professional medical waste disposal company. They will not only help you in labeling the containers, they can evaluate your office practices, identify medical waste sources, and equip you with containers that help to make your practice more efficient – and compliant. They will also provide you with the required paperwork to show authorities that you have been acting in compliance with the law.

Labeling your medical waste containers is one step in the medical waste disposal process that you cannot miss. Armed with this knowledge you can stay in compliance with all regulations while practicing veterinary medicine safely and legally.