The importance of health-care waste management

Waste is an unwanted or undesired material or substance. We have different types of waste; it may consist of the unwanted material left over from a manufacturing process (industrial, commercial, mining or agricultural operations) or from community and household activities.

Waste-Management

With the growth of the population which includes growth of the production, urbanization and some other major changes in our society, the management of the waste is becoming crucial, especially in developing countries, where we are facing the phenomenon of mass consumption.

The most sensitive category of waste, where the management is very important is health-care waste. Between 75% and 95% of the waste produced by health-care providers is comparable to domestic waste and usually called “non-hazardous”   or “general health-care waste”. It comes mostly from the administrative, kitchen and housekeeping functions at health-care facilities and may also include packaging waste and waste generated during maintenance of health-care buildings. The remaining 10-25% of health-care waste is regarded as “hazardous” and may pose a variety of environmental and health risks.

The waste management hierarchy is largely based on the concept of the “3Rs”, namely reduces, reuse and recycle, and broadly relates to the sustainable use of resources. Best practice waste management will aim to avoid or recover as much of the waste as possible in or around a health-care facility, rather than disposing of it by burning or burial. Poor management of health-care waste exposes healthcare workers, waste handlers and the community to infections, toxic effects and injures. This category of waste includes sharps, non-sharps, blood, body parts, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and radioactive materials.

To reduce health problem and eliminate potential risks to people’s health, health care services inevitably create waste that may itself be hazardous to health, this type of waste creates a higher potential for infection and injury than any other type of waste. Besides having a major input on public health, the health-care waste has a significant impact on the environment.

The main instruments which are being used and should be improved in the future are existence of national policies and a legal framework on the subject, training of personal and of course initiatives to raise awareness and to sensitize them to the subject.

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