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Ask the Experts Q & A

Q: I was amazed when our practice administrator showed me how much it costs to dispose of our infectious waste in our seven-physician practice. Any ideas on how to cut costs in this area?

A: You pay about five times more to dispose of infectious waste (about $.30/lb) than for ordinary municipal trash because of more stringent handling and disposal requirements. So, begin by examining your disposal practices. Have workers gotten into the habit of disposing of too much material as if it were infectious? If you see items such as drink cups, tissues and intravenous bags in your red bags, you are wasting tons of money. Only waste that has been saturated with blood and other potentially infectious materials (see below) is considered infectious and must be "red-bagged."

Finally, come up with ingenious ideas to reduce the volume of noninfectious waste tossed into infectious-waste receptacles. Possible solutions could be as simple as locating regular uncovered garbage cans next to all covered biohazardous waste containers.

Potentially Infectious Materials Defined by OSHA

  • Blood
  • Unfixed Tissues or Organs
  • Body Fluids (Cerebrospinal, Synovial, Pleural, Peritoneal, Pericardial, Amniotic)
  • Semen & Vaginal Secretions
  • Saliva (in dental procedures only)
  • Any body fluid visibly contaminated with blood
  • All body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids

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