Waste management refers to the collection, recycling, waste treatment, processing, waste disposal, and transport of waste materials. Waste and environmental management systems are implemented to reduce the effect of wastes on people's health, aesthetics, and the environment, and to recover resources from wastes and improve environmental services.
Waste management processes vary in rural and urban areas, developing and developed countries, and industrial and residential producers. Local governments manage non-hazardous institutional and residential wastes in metropolitan areas, while the producers of non-hazardous industrial and commercial wastes are responsible to collect, treat and safely dispose of solid wastes generated.
Solid wastes produced by industries are non-hazardous or hazardous in nature. There is no universally acceptable definition of hazardous waste, but hazardous wastes are mostly generated from electronics and electrical industries. The general definition used for hazardous waste refers to any substance that has no further use, and has to be discarded by its generator. Hazardous wastes potentially affect the environment, health of humans, and require special disposal techniques to reduce or eliminate its hazard.
Several countries make use of the best technology to reduce the volume of hazardous wastes. Most wastes are detoxified or destroyed using methods that also dispose of residues produced. Treatments are done to make disposal easier, the waste less hazardous or toxic, to minimize the amount, and to facilitate recovery and re-use of waste components.
Treatments used include: chemical treatments that neutralize substances by mixing bases and acids, that reduce or oxidize chemical components, or cause a chemical alteration; physical treatments that use mechanical devices and physical forces to separate liquids from solids; thermal treatments that cause the oxidation, vaporization, or destruction of solid or liquid phase components; and biological treatments that biodegrade organic wastes.
Not just one but several processes are used to create a waste-specific treatment for the different categories of hazardous wastes. Currently, on-site or partial treatments have been established in most industrial operations to reduce the volume of wastes transported.
Biomedical wastes are considered hazardous, and are produced in the process of providing healthcare. These include scalpels, hypodermic needles, blades, surgical cottons, gloves, clothes, bandages, discarded medicine, blood, or blood products, body parts, non-liquid tissue, body fluids from humans and laboratory wastes that have agents that may cause disease. Other healthcare settings also generate other wastes like radioactive wastes, instruments containing mercury, and PVC plastics.
A biomedical waste program should include minimum sanitary processes and practices on how to handle, segregate, store, treat and transport biomedical wastes to ensure the protection of the public's health.
The volume of waste produced can be effectively managed and minimized by separation or segregation, and proper identification. To properly handle collected biomedical wastes the following should be done:
- Collect sharps using puncture proof containers.
- Mark containers and bags with infectious waste with a biohazard symbol.
- Sterilize infectious waste by autoclaving.
- Properly label collected cytotoxic wastes in leak proof containers.
- Destroy syringes and needles using syringe cutters and needle destroyers.
- Use curved scissors to cut infusion sets, gloves and bottles.
- Disinfect sharps, soiled linen, rubber goods and plastics with sodium hypochloride.
- Shred all disposable plastic before disposing to a vendor.
- Use specific containers, carts or wheeled trolleys solely to transport wastes.
- Mark transportation vehicles with the carrier's name and address, and a biohazard symbol.
All biomedical wastes should undergo final waste treatment for proper waste disposal through autoclave, incineration, microwave or hydroclave.
To provide proper environmental services to the community, local governments should implement an effective environmental management system to properly handle hazardous and biomedical wastes.