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Managing solid waste and recyclables at healthcare facilities

Most wastes generated in healthcare facilities are solid or recyclable wastes. Solid wastes include all wastes that are not classified as infectious, radiological, hazardous or universal wastes. Examples of solid wastes include food packaging material, office paper and electronics. Most solid waste generated in Wisconsin is disposed of in landfills or recycled.

Proper disposal is important

Healthcare facilities should send solid waste to a landfill approved to accept solid waste. Some landfills can accept only certain types of waste, such as construction and demolition debris. Work closely with your waste hauler and disposal facility to determine how to evaluate, profile and deliver solid waste generated at your facility.

To minimize environmental contamination, Wisconsin law prohibits the disposal of liquids in solid waste landfills. Nonhazardous liquid waste, such as latex paint, can be solidified, either on-site or off-site, before it is sent to a landfill.

When evaluating a waste, take into account the known environmental and health effects of the waste. If the material is not a hazardous waste, but the Material Safety Data Sheet or container label warns of aquatic toxicity, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic properties, the material should be sent to a hazardous waste, medical waste or solid waste incinerator approved to take the waste.

Nonhazardous pharmaceuticals should be disposed of by appropriately authorized incineration regardless of their classification as hazardous or solid waste.

Recyclable materials

Wisconsin businesses and institutions cannot legally dispose of recyclable materials in a solid waste landfill, including paper, newspaper, magazines, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, certain electronics, steel containers or glass containers. Your healthcare facility should have collection and recycling programs in place for these materials, including procedures for ensuring that recyclables are not contaminated with hazardous or infectious materials.

Keep in mind that you may also be able to recycle other wastes generated at your facility, such as empty containers. For additional information on establishing recycling programs and managing recyclables in a healthcare setting, see the links below.