Appropriate disposal of waste may seem straightforward at first, but differences in handling an item may contribute to factors that change its waste stream - that is, the process by which it's disposed of.
For example, the appropriate disposal of a piece of intravenous tubing used to deliver a chemotherapeutic drug to a patient can be affected by something as simple as flushing the IV line during chemotherapy:
- If the line is flushed with saline while still connected to the patient, depending on state and local regulations, it may be discarded into the waste stream for trace chemotherapeutics;
- If the line is not flushed with saline before it is disconnected from the patient, the IV set will likely be considered hazardous waste, depending on the substance within the line as well as the pertinent regulations for the practice's location;
- If the line is not flushed with saline before it is disconnected from the patient and it is inadvertently tossed into a sharps container, depending on the substance and pertinent regulations, the entire sharps container may be designated dual waste (hazardous and regulated medical waste) and must be labeled and treated as such – including ensuring that the company picking up the dual waste is legally permitted to do so.
The keys to proper disposal decisions include:
- Awareness of the options and restrictions for disposal of individual items in your area
- Knowing which authorities have oversight over which aspects and items so that you know who to ask when questions come up
- Disposal instructions on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and product inserts
- Disposal policy for the practice including all of the above
This members-only resource is intended to provide members with practical guidance for the appropriate disposal of solid wastes generated by their veterinary practice. This is an extremely complex issue, and we've attempted to boil it down to what's most relevant to our members – but please consider these pages as guidance only. If you have questions about waste disposal regulations, it's best to go straight to the regulatory source – the EPA and/or your state or local agency.