Questions and Answers

1) What should I do if I have medical waste?

If you are not a regular producer but just have occasional or one-time waste, contact a medical waste disposal company that serves your area. You can find on in the phone book or an internet search or you can ask for referrals at a medical or veterinary clinic.

Don't bother asking the medical or veterinary clinic if you can put your waste in their disposal container. The medical waste company must know the origin and chain of custody of the waste. You can't piggy-back on someone else who has wste.

Don't try to skirt regulations and dump your waste illegally. It's risky and unethical. Don't think you can "play dumb" if caught either. This rarely works.

2) If the disposal is just going to be incineration, why can't I do that myself in my autoclave?

Even if you have a laboratory grade autoclave, you probably can't follow the best practices of waste incinerators. In particular, how will you handle the smoke or off-gas? Autoclaves are designed to sterilize equipment that is already clean, not to burn waste.

3) Does old prescription medication count as medical waste?

It depends on who you are. If you are an operating business - for profit or not-for-profit - then yes, pharmaceutical waste requires special treatment and disposal.

For household use, no. The drugs are potentially harmful to people and animals but they do not typically have live cultures. The disposal of medicines requires some special attention, though. It is usually legal to put it in the household trash (check you local laws to make certain), but responsible disposal calls for a little more attention.

Some communities have Drug Take-Back Days during which they set up collection spots for old medicine. If you must put in your regular trash,mix if with coffee grounds kitty litter, sawdust, or other repugnant material to make it less appealing for pets and children. Put the mixture in a plastic bag and seal before putting everything in the large garbage bag or container.

4) Is dog manure medical waste?

No. It is more like what you normally flush down the toilet. Actually, you could flush dog manure down the toilet, but most municipal waste collection agencies will accept it in normal household trash. This waste contains e. coli and potential pathogens, but a limited amount of manure is deemed acceptable in the municipal sold waste stream that goes to a sanitary landfill. Conclusion: either leave your dog manure on the lawn, in the woods, etc. or put it in your trash. Animal feces from laboratories is usually treated as pathological waste. It may have unusual components, and even if it doesn’t the waste management authorities at these facilities usually ask researchers to put manure in pathological waste containers.