Modern hospitals are complex, multidisciplinary systems which consist of different facets of medical care as well as research facilities. In the course of functioning of hospitals, there is a considerable amount of hospital wastes generated. There have been an expansion of both private and public sector hospitals in all countries and hence, the importance of hospital waste management is increasing day by day.
There are various categories of wastes which are generated in hospitals. These are usually discarded chemical or bio medical wastes which need to be disposed in proper ways. Hospital wastes may consist of general wastes which are usually resultant from domestic or housekeeping activities. Kitchen wastes, packaging materials, waste paper are usually general wastes which are generated in hospitals and clinics due to administrative or housekeeping activities.
Pathological wastes is another category of hospital wastes which consist of tissues, organs, human fetuses, placenta, blood or other bodily fluids. Such wastes usually are categorized as hazardous wastes.
Infectious wastes is another category of hospital wastes which consist of pathogens. Such wastes need to be disposed of with special care to ensure that infections are not spread from handling of such wastes. Tissue cultures, stocks of infectious agents in laboratories, wastes from surgery, wastes of infectious patients are infectious wastes.
Sharps such as needles, broken glass, saws, nails, blades, scalpels are also part of hospital wastes. Pharmaceutical wastes such as products, drugs, chemicals which are wastes, are outdated, contaminated, they form a specific category of hospital wastes.
Chemical wastes such as discarded solids, liquids, gaseous chemicals, disinfectants, re-agents are chemical wastes which are hazardous and so are radioactive wastes such as those made from radionucleides for tumor localization, therapeutic procedures for carcinogenic diseases and so forth.
In India every day per bed in hospitals around one and a half kilogram of hospital wastes are generated. Amongst such wastes, about fifteen percent is hazardous while ten percent is hazardous, infective and eighty five percent is non hazardous. Since only fifteen percent is hazardous, it is important to stress on proper hospital waste management. Biomedical wastes are hazardous and if they are not segregated at the time of disposal, then all the hospital wastes become hazardous. The rationale behind hospital waste management is that, injuries can occur from the sharps disposal if not properly handled; then again, patients with poor immunity systems can become infected with the hospital wastes if disposal is not properly implemented. Risk of infection is greatest amongst waste handlers and the general public who live in the vicinity of such landfill areas where such wastes are disposed. Hence, separate handling of the different category of wastes is important with color codes and proper training of hospital staff to ensure proper disposal and treatment of hospital wastes.