Medical waste

Specific requirements in terms of collection, intermediate storage, transport and processing apply in relation to medical waste. The aim here is to avoid any possible risk to public health or work safety. Hence hazardous waste must be collected separately.

Various types of medical waste arise in hospitals, medical practices, laboratories and in the treatment of pets and livestock. A large proportion of this waste is not dangerous and can be disposed of together with municipal solid waste (MSW). However, particular attention must be paid to medical waste that is classified as hazardous waste.

Ecological assessment

Medical waste has very different properties which can pose a variety of risks which can be differentiated into the three risk categories:

  • injury risk due to sharp or pointed objects such as scalpels and syringes;
  • contamination risk from waste containing blood, secretions or excretions;
  • environmental and health risks from infectious waste or active substances in unused and expired drugs.

Hazardous medical waste must be collected separately.

Separate collection

Hazardous medical waste may only be submitted to special collection points or licensed waste disposal operations. This guarantees that the waste is disposed of under controlled conditions in a suitable facility. Controlled disposal ensures that the waste poses no risk to the employees of waste disposal companies and prevents it from entering the environment. The risk that children or animals could come into contact with the material, e.g. through torn refuse bags left on the street, is also eliminated.

Expired and unused drugs from households can be handed in at pharmacies or collection points.

In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (OMW), healthcare facilities (hospitals, medical practices, pharmacies) and collection points must document the handover of hazardous waste on a declaration document.

Medical waste that does not pose any risk can be disposed of with municipal solid waste. This includes, for example, wound dressings and plaster casts, linen, disposable clothing and nappies.

Animal carcasses from veterinary treatment that are not infected with pathogenic organisms can be disposed of at regional carcass disposal facilities.

Disposal/recycling

Hazardous medical waste is incinerated under controlled conditions. Waste incineration plants and crematoria are used for this purpose. Crematoria are particularly suited to the incineration of body parts, for example placentas and amputated limbs. To reduce the risk of infection, certain hazardous medical waste must be sterilised, disinfected or inactivated prior to its disposal.

Financing

Disposal is financed in accordance with the polluter-pays principle. Individuals can hand in expired and unused drugs from households at pharmacies or collection points. This service is generally provided free of charge.

Further information

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Last modification 03.07.2018

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