Q&A: Biomedical Waste

  Jyotsana Bedi, Shivangini Kapoor |     February 1, 2020

You must have noticed the dustbins used to segregate and collect waste from your home and school. And you must also be familiar with what usually gets thrown in these dustbins, but have you ever wondered what happens to the biomedical waste generated in hospitals, clinics and other medical centres? Let us find out. 

What is biomedical waste?

Biomedical waste, also known as infectious or medical waste, can be defined as waste generated during the diagnosis, testing, treatment, research or production of biological products for animals and humans.

Where does biomedical waste come from?

Biomedical waste is generated from two types of sources. Major sources include government hospitals, private hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, medical colleges, research centres, paramedic services and biotechnology institutions. Whereas physician/dental clinics, animal houses/slaughter houses, blood donation camps, vaccination centres and mortuaries constitute minor sources.

What does biomedical waste consist of?

Biomedical waste consists of human anatomical waste, animal waste, microbiology and biotechnology waste, waste sharps, discarded medicines, toxic drugs, soiled waste, liquid waste, incineration ash and chemical waste.

Does biomedical waste contain organisms like bacteria and viruses?

The answer is yes. Organisms present in biomedical waste include HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis C, Salmonella typhi, cholera, tetani and so on. These viruses cause diseases like AIDS, hepatitis, dengue, typhoid, cholera, septicaemia, rheumatic fever, kala azar and malaria, among others. These organisms are transmitted through dust, contaminated food and water; and improper hygiene practices like not washing hands.

How is biomedical waste disposed of?

Biomedical Waste Management rules constitute a part of the Environment Protection Act of 1998, amended in 2016. According to this Act, colour-coded bags should be used for the disposal of medical waste, deemed hazardous to health.

Yellow bag

This bag is used for the disposal of human anatomical waste, animal anatomical waste, soiled waste, expired or discarded medicines, chemical waste, discarded linens, mattresses with blood or body fluid and other clinical laboratory waste.

Red bag

This bag is used for the disposal of contaminated waste like tube bottles, intravenous tubes, catheters, urine bags and so on.

White bag

This bag is used for waste sharps including metals like needles, syringes, scalpels, blades and so on.

Blue bag

This bag is used to dispose of glassware like ampules and metallic body implants.

See for yourself

Now that you know what biomedical waste is and how it is disposed of, here's a task for you. The next time you visit a doctor or medical facility, try asking how waste is disposed of and what happens to it after that. Let us know if you learn something new.

About the Author

She is a student of Masters in Public Health at the Indian Institute of Public Health, New Delhi

She is a student of MDS in Oral Surgery at Sudha Rastogi Dental College, Faridabad, Haryana