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Bio Medical Waste Management

Biomedical waste, also known as hospital waste, includes any waste containing infectious or potentially infectious materials. This waste is generated during the treatment of humans or animals, as well as from research involving biological materials. It can also include waste that appears to be medical or laboratory-related, such as packaging, unused bandages, and infusion kits.

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    Additionally, research laboratory waste containing biomolecules or organisms restricted from environmental release is part of this category. Sharps, like needles and scalpels, are always considered biomedical waste because of their potential to be contaminated with blood and cause injury if not properly disposed of.

    Bio Medical Waste Management

    Biomedical waste can be either solid or liquid. Examples include discarded blood, sharps, unwanted microbiological cultures, identifiable body parts (such as those from amputations), human or animal tissue, used bandages, discarded gloves, and other medical supplies that may have been in contact with blood and body fluids. It also includes laboratory waste with similar characteristics. Sharps waste consists of used or discarded needles, scalpels, lancets, and other items that can pierce the skin.

    This waste is produced by various biological and medical activities, including diagnosing, preventing, or treating diseases. Common sources of biomedical waste are hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, emergency medical services, medical research laboratories, doctors’ offices, dental clinics, veterinary clinics, home healthcare, and funeral homes.

    Also Check: Types of Waste

    Biomedical waste differs from regular trash or general waste and is distinct from other hazardous waste types like chemical, radioactive, universal, or industrial waste. Medical facilities also generate hazardous chemical and radioactive waste, which, while usually not infectious, requires careful disposal. Some waste is considered multihazardous, such as tissue samples preserved in formalin.

    Effective biomedical waste management is crucial to prevent environmental contamination and protect public health. Proper disposal methods are essential to manage this waste safely and responsibly.

    Why is it in the News?

    The increasing amount of biomedical waste is becoming a significant concern due to the rising Covid-19 cases. According to the Covid-19 BWM app, over 56,000 tons of Covid-19 infected waste was produced from June 2020 to June 2021. There is growing worry among various groups about the safety of frontline health and sanitation workers who collect biomedical waste from the homes of Covid-19 patients.

    In June 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change’s Working Group released a draft of the New Bio Medical Waste Management Rules 2016. These rules, which are currently in place, guide the segregation of biomedical waste in the country.

    What is Bio Medical Waste?

    Biomedical waste includes any materials that are infectious or potentially infectious. These wastes are produced during the diagnosis, treatment, and immunization of humans and animals.

    Biomedical waste can be both solid and liquid. Examples include:

    • Sharp objects like needles, lancets, syringes, scalpels, and broken glass
    • Human tissues or body parts from amputations
    • Animal tissues and waste from veterinary clinics
    • Used bandages, dressings, gloves, and other medical supplies
    • Liquid waste from infected areas
    • Laboratory waste

    Biomedical waste is different from regular trash and needs special disposal and treatment methods. Effective bio medical waste management is crucial to ensure the safe handling and disposal of these materials.

    Types of Biomedical Waste

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified biomedical waste into eight categories:

    1. Infectious Waste – Waste that is infectious or contaminated.
    2. Sharps – Sharp objects such as needles, scalpels, broken glass, and razors.
    3. Pathological Waste – Human or animal body parts, including tissues, fluids, or blood.
    4. Pharmaceutical Waste – Expired or unused drugs, medicines, or creams.
    5. Genotoxic Waste – Toxic drugs and hazardous toxic waste.
    6. Radioactive Waste – Waste containing potentially radioactive materials.
    7. Chemical Waste – Liquid waste from machines, batteries, and disinfectants.
    8. General/Other Waste – Non-hazardous waste.

    The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has established a color-coded system for disposing of biomedical waste according to its type:

    • Yellow Bin: For anatomical waste, chemical waste, soiled waste, chemotherapy waste, discarded linen and medicines, and laboratory waste.
    • Red Bin: For contaminated plastic waste.
    • Blue Bin: For glass waste and metallic implants.
    • Black Bin: For hazardous and other waste.

    Each type of waste in these bins requires specific treatment and disposal methods to ensure proper biomedical waste management.

    Also Check: Cause of Solid Waste Pollution

    Effects of Biomedical Waste

    Exposure to hazardous biomedical waste can lead to diseases or injuries to human health. Improper handling of medical waste is a major cause of the spread of viruses like HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. These viruses are often transmitted through injuries from contaminated syringes and needles.

    Doctors, nurses, and sanitation workers are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of biomedical waste.

    With the rise of new strains of the novel coronavirus, properly managing biomedical waste has never been more crucial. There are several technologies for treating biomedical waste, including:

    • Incineration
    • Chemical Disinfection
    • Wet Thermal Treatment
    • Microwave Irradiation
    • Land Disposal
    • Inertization

    Country-wise Regulation and Management of Bio-medical Waste

    United Kingdom

    In the UK, clinical waste is strictly regulated. The relevant laws include the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, and the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005, along with Scotland’s Special Waste Regulations. In October 2018, a scandal emerged when Healthcare Environment Services, managing NHS clinical waste in Scotland and England, breached environmental permits at four sites by exceeding waste limits and improper storage. Consequently, seventeen NHS trusts in Yorkshire terminated their contracts. The company blamed the issue on reduced incineration capacity and re-classification of clinical waste, which required more incineration. Despite the controversy, the company retains contracts with 30 other NHS trusts and a waste disposal contract with NHS England for primary care and pharmacy.

    United States

    In the U.S., biomedical waste is generally regulated as medical waste. The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 allowed the EPA to set management rules, but after its expiration in 1991, regulation fell to individual states, resulting in varying levels of regulation. Options for waste disposal include on-site treatment, off-site disposal by specialized firms, and a mail-back option where waste can be returned to manufacturers via the postal service. This mail-back option, available nationwide, is regulated by strict postal and FDA requirements.

    Also Check: Waste Disposal


    India’s Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, first enacted in 1998 and updated in 2016, are enforced by each state’s Pollution Control Board. These rules dictate the segregation and disposal of medical waste. Despite regulations, improper disposal practices like dumping waste into oceans or landfills are common. Such practices can spread diseases to humans and animals. Efforts to improve compliance include training healthcare staff and awareness campaigns, but challenges remain, especially in rural areas. The National Green Tribunal has enforced stricter compliance, resulting in over 200 licensed Common Bio Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities. The latest guidelines for waste segregation are:

    • Red Bag: For syringes (without needles), soiled gloves, catheters, and IV tubes.
    • Yellow Bag: For dressings, bandages, cotton swabs with body fluids, blood bags, and anatomical waste.
    • Cardboard Box with Blue Marking: For glass vials, ampoules, and other glassware.
    • White Puncture Proof Container (PPC): For needles, sharps, and blades.
    • Black Bags: For non-bio-medical waste, including stationery, food waste, packaging, disposable items, and kitchen waste.

    Methods of Biomedical Waste Incineration

    There are three main types of medical waste incinerators: controlled air, excess air, and rotary kiln.

    1. Controlled Air Incineration: Also known as starved-air incineration or two-stage incineration, this method involves feeding waste into a combustion chamber. Combustion air then dries and facilitates the volatilization of the waste, releasing carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere.
    2. Excess Air Incineration: This process is similar to controlled air incineration. The waste is dried, ignited, and combusted by heat from the primary chamber burner. However, unlike the controlled air process, the excess air method vaporizes moisture and volatile components in the waste.
    3. Rotary Kiln Incineration: This method is more versatile, allowing for the mixing of wet and dry waste components. Many waste engineers consider it to be the most environmentally friendly option.

    Environmental Impact

    After incineration, toxic ash residue is produced and often disposed of in landfills without protective barriers, potentially contaminating underground water sources. The burning of plastic materials releases harmful gases into the air, which can cause long-term respiratory and health issues for humans and animals.

    Air pollution from incinerators also damages the ozone layer, harms crops and forests, and contributes to climate change. Prolonged exposure to these toxins can be detrimental to trees and plants, possibly leading to the extinction of certain species in specific areas. Additionally, pollution and chemical leaks can make the fruits of trees poisonous and inedible.

    Effective biomedical waste management is crucial to mitigate these environmental and health risks.

    FAQs on Bio Medical Waste Management

    What is Biomedical Waste Management?

    Biomedical waste management refers to the process of handling, segregating, and treating waste generated in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and related industries. This waste includes infectious and hazardous materials, which must be managed scientifically to prevent harm.

    What are the Four Types of Biomedical Waste?

    Infectious Waste: Waste that is contaminated or infectious. Sharps: Objects like needles, scalpels, broken glass, and razors. Pathological Waste: Human or animal body parts, tissues, fluids, or blood. Pharmaceutical Waste: Unused or expired drugs, medicines, or creams.

    What is the Colour of Biomedical Waste?

    Different colors are used for waste segregation: Red: Biohazardous waste Yellow: Radioactive waste Blue/White: Non-hazardous waste Black: Hazardous waste Proper segregation and disposal protect staff and the environment.

    How to Manage Medical Waste?

    Incineration Chemical disinfection Wet (autoclaving) and dry thermal treatment Microwave irradiation Land disposal Inertization

    Why is Medical Waste Management Important?

    Proper management of biomedical waste is crucial to protect healthcare workers, the public, and the environment. Incorrect handling can spread infectious diseases, contaminate the environment, and expose workers to hazardous materials.

    What is Yellow Bin Waste in Hospitals?

    The yellow bin is used for waste contaminated with bodily fluids, like dressings, swabs, gloves, and other items in contact with infectious agents.

    What is the Punishment for Improper Biomedical Waste Management?

    Non-compliance with biomedical waste management regulations can result in imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of Rs. 100,000, or both.

    What is the Red Bin Used For?

    The red bin collects dangerous biomedical waste, including needles, surgical knives, body fluids, cotton dressings, plaster casts, tissues, and sanitary napkins, which need careful disposal.

    How Many Categories of Biomedical Waste has WHO Classified?

    The WHO has classified biomedical waste into 8 different categories based on their nature.

    What Waste is Designated for the Yellow-Coloured Bin According to CPBC?

    The yellow-colored bin is designated for anatomical waste, chemical waste, soiled waste, chemotherapy waste, discarded linen and medicines, and laboratory waste.

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