Written by Megan Chamberlain
27 Mar 2020

Why Your Coffee Cup isn’t RMW

The sky isn’t green, climate change is real, and coffee cups aren’t RMW. What do all those statements have in common? They’re true! Today we’re going to be exploring just the solid waste doesn’t equate to Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) bit.


Let’s review, what is RMW? Also commonly referred to as “red bag” waste or biohaz.

RMW is traditionally identified as anything saturated with blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials to the point of being flakeable, drippable, or pourable. We actually have a whole blog on what RMW is here.

We also have a piece on 5 things that are surprisingly not RMW.

We write about this stuff a lot.


You may be thinking, “Duh, coffee cups aren’t RMW...”

Yes! And neither are pizza boxes, receipts, or unsoiled gloves – however we have found all those solid waste items and more when completing container audits at numerous facilities over the years. That means mis-segregated medical waste!


Waste Segregation Poster


To keep it short, incorrectly segregated medical waste contributes to several things:

  • Increased cost of disposal as it errantly raises your volumes of generation with waste that doesn’t even belong in a medical waste container to start with
  • Decreased sustainability – think how you always separate plastics, trash, and cans when recycling at home, medical waste segregation is a lot like that. If you throw every item into the closest bin, you are defeating any chance of sustainable disposal and treatment because now that waste stream is contaminated with outsider materials.


We’re all human...

...and clinicians are superhumans that are always very busy providing care to those who need it, so quick disposal is a must. Sometimes that triple grande mocha frappuccino latte may errantly get tossed in an RMW bin because it’s most convenient. We’re not blaming anyone. However, we are blaming something and that is inefficient medical waste container placement in clinical settings. In a quick-paced environment, biohazard containers need to be efficiently placed.


So how can you ensure your RMW container supports waste segregation?

There are two routes you can go with this:


01 / Place your container closest to the generation point of the waste.

Do not have your RMW container over by a solid waste bin. If these containers are beside each other, your risk of mis-segregation is increased. If someone is in a rush, they will most likely put waste in whichever bin they are closest to. Red Bag waste is often generated near the area of procedure in the room, so place the container there that way the waste can properly be disposed of.


02 / Remove the RMW container from the patient setting all together

This is our preferred recommendation as it will aid in lowering infection risk too. “If it’s accessible to all… it will be used by all.”  Ideally all RMW (regulated medical waste, biohaz) containers should be eliminated from patients’ rooms and visiting areas.

You may be thinking we’re crazy, how can you totally remove the RMW container from a patient setting?! Easy, with a mobile cart like our Acesssmart. This means you can easily wheel the container to the point-of-generation then remove it from the setting or put in a secure area. This prevents patients from being able to access it to throw waste in and will discourage clinicians from accidentally throwing non-rmw items in it as well. Leaving a solid waste bin as the only container in the room for non-medical waste is the best option. 


Educate on healthcare waste segregation

The last, and most frequent, thing you should do, is continuing to educate yourself and your colleagues on proper healthcare waste segregation. Knowledge is power and you deserve to be able to segregate healthcare waste with confidence! Our staff is always here to help too – all Daniels Health containers are vividly colored to aid in healthcare waste segregation. If you’re interested in the difference, they could make for you and your teammates, reach out to us.


In the meantime, feel free to download and print this poster to remind everyone: Coffee isn’t RMW waste.


Download Poster Here


Header Style: 
Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content Strategist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Daniels Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to for fun analogies to explain healthcare waste.