April 03, 2023

Packaging Medical Waste

Ensuring Effective Medical Waste Packaging

There is more involved in disposing of medical waste than merely throwing soiled items away in a designated trash can. Organizations that generate medical waste must package it appropriately for pickup and transport in order to preserve staff, patient, and environmental safety—not to mention to maintain compliance with federal, provincial, and local regulations.

Here are 5 steps for packaging medical waste to help your organization remain compliant and safe:

Step 1: Choose a Suitable Container

Organizations can either use corrugated boxes or specially-designed reusable containers for biomedical waste. If you choose to use corrugated boxes, be sure to seal the bottom flaps with two-inch wide, clear, packing tape. Printed text and arrows should distinguish the receptacle’s top and bottom. Reusable containers do not require special set up.

Step 2: Line the Medical Waste Container with the Right Bag

A yellow bag is used for non-anatomical waste, and red bags are used for anatomical and cytotoxic waste. The medical waste bag must line the inside of the receptacle, overlapping its four outer sides. Be certain to comply with any provincial-specific requirements for bag thickness and weight limitations.

Step 3: Place the Appropriate Medical Waste in the Lined Container

Each province might have their own definition of what constitutes biomedical waste, so be sure you know what can be placed in the container. Note that medicationsloose needles, scalpels, general trash, recycling, CANNOT be thrown away in a yellow bag. Cytotoxic waste and anatomical waste are forms of biomedical waste that must be segregated. These items should be disposed of in red bags and marked for incineration.

Step 4. Tie the Bag, Seal the Container

Once the bag is full, with a little room at the top remaining, staff must secure it. While wearing gloves, they should gather the bag edges and twist the top of the bag to seal the contents. They then should make a strong, hand-tied single or gooseneck knot to prevent any leakage. You can also use a zip tie or tape to secure the knot, if preferred,

After securing the bag, staff must seal the transport container. If using a reusable container, staff should engage the auto-locking flaps or secure the lid depending on the receptacle design. For corrugated boxes, staff should seal the top of the box with two-inch wide, clear packing tape. Be aware that closed yellow and red bags should not be visible once the outer container is closed and sealed. Improperly packaged waste or damaged receptacles will be denied pickup or returned to the health care organization.

Step 5. Check the Markings

The box should have appropriate labelling that meets federal, provincial, and local requirements. It also should include any bar codes or other required information from the waste hauler.

To ensure your organization correctly packages its medical waste, it can help to consult with a medical waste management expert like Stericycle.

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