Healthcare waste, or medical waste typically refers to clinical waste or hospital waste. Healthcare waste can be divided into infectious waste, hazardous waste, radioactive waste and general waste. The general waste (e.g. food waste and packaging waste from wards and staff, ashes and rubble, etc.) usually represents the majority of this waste stream. If properly segregated, it can be managed similar to ordinary household waste.
The other types of healthcare waste (sometimes referred to as healthcare risk waste) require safe management, including segregation, treatment and disposal, to prevent subsequent risks to human health as well as environmental pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) differentiates 10 categories of such healthcare waste (see below).
- Infectious waste
- Pathological and anatomical waste
- Hazardous pharmaceutical waste
- Hazardous chemical waste
- Waste with high content of heavy metals
- Pressurised containers
- Highly infectious waste
- Genotoxic/cytotoxic waste
- Radioactive waste
See the Further Reading list below for useful resources on healthcare waste.