Written by David Skinner
28 Feb 2019

How to Reduce your Total Cost of Medical Waste Management

7 Methods to Reduce Medical Waste Volume 

In this blog, we will discuss small changes you can make to your healthcare waste management program that will have a large impact on your total costs of medical waste disposal. Daniels Health has been serving the healthcare industry for over 33 years in the delivery of clinical, safety and cost outcomes across every spectrum of healthcare waste management, we have learned that often the biggest results come from a few simple changes in process.

In fact, there are a number of key benchmarks that facilities are using to focus initiatives towards the reduction of medical waste volumes. Practice Greenhealth and ASHE have published benchmark studies for facilities to use as KPI’s to measure progress against, and as targets to aim for in terms of industry best practice. They update these benchmarks almost yearly—making it a relevant resource for all healthcare waste management.

 

Before we jump in, what is Medical Waste?

It is important to fully understand the definition of Regulated Medical Waste as historical views on the medical waste definition differ substantially.

Regulated medical waste (RMW), also known as 'biohazardous' waste or 'infectious medical' waste, is the portion of the waste stream that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials, thus posing a significant risk of transmitting infection.

Here are a few links to assist in more broadly understanding medical waste:

https://www.epa.gov/rcra/medical-waste

http://www.hercenter.org/rmw/osha-bps.php
 


 

01 / Limit access to Regulated Medical Waste containers.

“If it’s accessible to all… it will be used by all” Ideally all regulated medical waste (RMW) containers should be eliminated from patients’ rooms and visiting areas. When situated in a public-access area, there is a high risk of candy wrappers, soda cans and the occasional bouquet of drooping flowers being disposed of in a bin designated for medical waste. This mis-segregation compounds the cost of disposing what would otherwise have been classified as non-regulated solid waste to a premium disposal rate of more than 70%.

 

Daniels’ answer to point-of-use disposal in patient areas is its Medismart system; a hands-free pedal-operated containment system that can be wheeled in and out of the patient environment delivering compliant waste disposal without the risk and cost of unauthorized waste disposal. If Medismart Containers are installed within the patient room, then the suggestion is to install them as close as possible to the waste-generation point, and away from regular waste containers to ensure compliant and best practice segregation.   

 

02 / Choose a container that’s clinically differentiated with a restricted opening

A container (or cardboard box) with a wide opening that does not restrict visualization of contents, often contains much higher volumes of non-compliant waste because of a few key contributing factors.

  • It’s easy! You don’t have to stop and make a conscious choice about whether the bin is intended for the purpose of the waste you’re about to deposit – it’s a big wide opening that’s waiting to be filled!  
  • Validation of other user mistakes “If I can see that there’s a soda can in there, then there’s no problem adding another one.”
  • Domestic familiarity. If it’s the same bin (or familiar cardboard box) as the one you have at home, we’re already conditioned to equate it’s use to solid waste garbage. Just because it’s located in a clinical setting doesn’t register in the user’s mind that “it’s a clinical bin for clinical waste only”. You need a system that interrupts behavior.

 

Our Medismart system, for the reasons outlined above, has been proven to reduce medical waste volumes in hospitals by as much as 59%! It’s clinically designed for hands-free use (no cross contamination) with a lid that closes requiring conscious effort to be put into the process of medical waste disposal. Through multiple clinical studies and customer account stories we have successfully seen a reduction of large non-conforming items entering the medical waste stream, and an overall change in solid waste (low cost per pound) increase, and medical waste (high cost per pound) dramatically decrease.

 

03 / Make it easy to segregate   

Let’s face it, we’re all human and when presented with only one choice (especially when we’re busy or attending to urgent patient needs), we won’t look around for the “right” alternative, we’ll just go with whatever is in front of us. One of the essential factors in optimized waste segregation is having the right bin in the right location so that the choice to segregate is made simple.

 

In a patient environment, make sure there is a bin for recycling and general waste accessible to staff. Make sure each bin is compliantly labeled and color coded for instant recognition and placed in an accessible location to encourage best-practice-disposal.

 

Our latest RMW Poster

 

 

04 / Go reusable! Eliminate excess plastic waste volume    

33% of waste volume in the average medical waste container is the container plastic itself! Let’s go through the logic of this… you’re buying a container, and then you’re paying for the cost of disposing of the plastic in a high-cost pharmaceutical, chemotherapy or regulated medical waste stream. Financially and environmentally, disposable containers add significant cost to the process of healthcare waste management.

 

Reusable containers are stronger, more robust, and in the case of Daniels clinically designed suite of containment systems – designed with inbuilt locks and safety features that would be cost-prohibitive to design into a $20 throwaway container or cardboard box. By going reusable you get safer products for your staff, containers that are robotically washed and decontaminated after each use – and you save your $20 by not having to buy a disposable container as well as the costs redeemed from diverting plastic from landfill. Go green, the planet and your staff will thank you for it!

 

05 / Eliminate Plastic Bags

We’re all aware of the impact plastic bags have on the environment and the years (recent studies estimate between 10-1000 years) it takes for a bag to decompose in landfill, but what is not often spoke about is the cost. The rollout of Daniels Medismart system throughout a 580 bed hospital, resulted in a $40,000 annual cost saving through the elimination of bag purchasing! We realize that a small medical clinic with three full time staff is not going to achieve savings of this magnitude, but in all sized facilities you are able to consciously contribute to waste volume reductions through the elimination of plastic bags.

 

Daniels Medismart system is UN TDG certified as one the only medical waste container in the United States that does not require a plastic liner or secondary packaging (eliminating both bags and boxes!). Our robotic washing processes achieve a decontamination and bacterial load reduction that is the highest in the industry, and we divert more “waste” from landfill per container than any other system in the United States. Visit our Medismart page to learn more about this unique system.      

 

06 / Educate, Educate, Educate!     

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about what can be classified as Regulated Medical Waste or ordinary solid waste; Waste Optimization can be a grey area. Staff members may take the over classification approach and dispose of anything they’re not sure about as medical waste, this is an expensive practice for health care facilities which should be discouraged. Make sure your facility’s medical waste management plans are clearly defined and communicated.  


07 / Implement a facility-wide recycling program      

Many Items in a medical facility are recyclable.  Your facility should detail its recycling plan as part of the overall waste management plan and highlight key items for recycling. Education is the key for any recycling program along with proper placement of and signage for all recycling containers throughout the facility. Installing recycling as close as possible to the point of generation will also aid in a best practice recycling program. 
 



It’s not hard to see that reducing medical waste volumes can have a real impact on the total cost of managing waste disposal at your facility.

The cost to dispose of medical waste is between 7-10 times greater than the cost of non-regulated solid waste disposal, and for the average healthcare facility medical waste should represent less than 10% of the total waste generated (The Centers for Disease Control puts this number at between 3-5%). Due to poor segregation practices, many US healthcare facilities are sitting between the 20% - 40% mark.

If you would like to speak to one of our experts on how to drive total cost reductions at your facility by changing your approach to medical waste management and waste segregation, reach out to us, we would love to walk you through some options.  

 

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David Skinner

David Skinner

Vice President

With over 19 years experience in healthcare and a genuine passion for reinventing the medical waste model of our era to achieve higher infection control standards, David is a walking almanac or, as we call him, the "skinnerpedia" of clinical knowledge.