October 19, 2022

Infection Prevention Week 2022

International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), established in 1986, aims to shine a light on infection prevention. IIPW is observed every third week in October.

IIPW was formed to solve the problem of infections plaguing the nation. This week of observance has spread from the United States to Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and other regions of the world. The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) spearheads the events.

This year’s theme, “The Future is Infection Prevention: 50 Years of Infection Prevention,” highlights decades of infection prevention work throughout APIC’s 50 years and inspires the next generation of infection preventionists to join the fight.

The Importance of Proper Waste Management

Proper disposal of medical waste generated during patient care is critical to helping ensure a safe and healthy environment for healthcare workers and patients.

Lack of awareness about the health hazards related to healthcare waste, inadequate training in waste management, absence of waste management and disposal systems, and insufficient financial investment in a waste disposal program can all contribute to poor waste management. Inadequate medical waste management can also increase the likelihood of the spread of infections.

Some of the main sources of healthcare waste are:

  • Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
  • Laboratories and medical research centres
  • Mortuaries and autopsy centres
  • Blood banks and blood drive events
  • Nursing homes

The management of healthcare waste requires attention and diligence to help avoid adverse health outcomes associated with poor management, including potential exposure to infectious agents.

Waste Identification and Segregation

Medical waste requires careful containment before collection for treatment. There are Canada-wide guidelines for the management of specific waste types, such as the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Waste in Canada. However, these must be adopted by provincial legislation or municipal by-laws to be enforceable. Local by-laws may be more stringent than the guidelines recommended by the CCME. These guidelines are designed to help protect the workers who generate medical waste and who manage the waste from generation to disposal.

Understanding the basics of medical waste identification and segregation is a crucial part of infection prevention.

Biomedical waste: The Government of Canada defines Biomedical Waste as “waste generated in human and animal health care facilities, medical or veterinary research and training facilities, clinical testing or research laboratories, as well as vaccine production facilities. Biomedical waste is segregated from the general waste stream as it requires decontamination prior to disposal.” Biomedical waste can be categorized into four main types: 

Non-anatomical waste: Waste generated from procedures, including any items saturated with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), such as bandages, gauze, or personal protective equipment (PPE).

Anatomical waste: Human or animal tissues, organs, limbs, surgical specimens, and other body parts.

Cytotoxic waste:  waste material that has been in direct contact or has been contaminated with cytotoxic agents or chemotherapy drugs.

Sharps waste: Any object contaminated with a pathogen or that may become contaminated with a pathogen through handling or during transportation and that is also capable of cutting or penetrating the skin or packaging material.

Examples include:

  • Scalpels
  • Blades
  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Broken glass or ampoules

Once medical waste and sharps have been collected, the materials will be taken to a facility permitted for the treatment of medical waste. Two primary methods of treating medical waste are autoclaving and incineration.

Autoclaving: This process uses heat, steam, and pressure to render medical waste non-infectious.  This is the acceptable treatment process for non-anatomical and sharps waste.

Incineration: This process burns medical waste at elevated temperatures and reduces it to ash.  This process is required for anatomical and cytotoxic waste.

Learn more about how Stericycle can help your organization with its waste segregation needs.