Medical Waste Disposal: A Guide

One of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry and its providers in Nigeria is effective waste disposal. It is even more challenging when other nuances are taken into consideration; state and local regulations, approved dumping sites and adequate transportation.

At JAAD365Healthcare, improving the delivery of healthcare services is our primary concern, and this is one area that needs to be addressed.

A simple definition of medical waste is any kind of waste that contains material that is infectious or potentially infectious which can cause bodily harm when come into contact with. This include waste generated from the anything related to healthcare e.g. hospitals, dental practices, diagnostic centres, medical research facilities, laboratories, veterinary clinics, healthcare facilities in industrial companies etc.

According to the 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act, medical waste is waste generated during medical research, testing, diagnosis, immunization, or treatment of either human beings or animals. Some examples are culture dishes, glassware, bandages, gloves, discarded sharps like needles or scalpels, swabs, and tissue.

Due to the highly hazardous nature of medical waste, regulatory standards have been set aside to ensure the safe, efficient and effective management of medical and chemical waste disposal.

Medical waste as a term can have a wide variety of applications. It can  include general office waste like papers or used markers, however to best understand its nature, we will identify the most common waste categories as defined by the WHO.


Categories of Waste

  • Infectious Waste
  • Radioactive
  • Sharps
  • Chemical
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Pathological
  • General Non-Regulated Medical Waste




Infectious Waste. This category covers anything that is infectious or potentially infectious including tissues, excreta, cultures, and tissues.

Radioactive. Whatever is contaminated with unused radiotherapy or lab research  liquid; be it supplies or glassware or supplies.

Sharps. Whatever can pierce or puncture the skin is classified as sharps and  this generally includes; needles, scalpels, razors, and staples.

Chemical. These are disinfectants, solvents used for laboratory purposes, batteries, and heavy metals from medical equipment such as mercury from broken thermometers.

Pharmaceuticals. This has to do with expired and/or contaminated vaccines, drugs, injectables, pills and antibiotics.

Pathological. This generally has to do with the body and it comprises blood, body parts, human fluids, etc.

General Non-Regulated Medical Waste.  This type does not pose any chemical, biological, physical or radioactive danger to the body.


All waste should first be segregated into the categories listed above or as determined by your organization, and contained in leak proof, rigid containers and then has to be disinfected or neutralized, with an approved chemical decontamination agent at the site of generation.

All waste materials after their categories that have been determined and have been put into containers should be labeled with the group name from the waste category. For example, do not label a single container as ‘Chemical Vials.’ Rather list the full name of the chemical. Abbreviations, initials or chemical formulas are not acceptable labels.

  • Corrosives should be placed in non-metallic containers while sharps should be placed in heavy plastic containers to prevent them from causing punctures.
  • Liquids in order to prevent spillage must be stored in leak proof containers with a secure lid and solids must be placed in plastic bags.
  • Chemical vials must be segregated based on categories too.


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After waste have been segregated based on categories and have been but in separate containers; all containers in their various categories must be placed into separate cardboard boxes and sealed with tape. All boxes must be labeled according to their categories. For example, label all sharps put in a cardboard box as “sharps for disposal.”

Chemical vials must be placed in separate boxes i.e. place plastic and glass vials in separate boxes and labeled accordingly e.g. “Plastic Vials for Disposal.”


To ensure stability and timeliness, it is imperative that these processes be agreed with your waste disposal company including the time for collection of medical waste, pickup and delivery as well as the approved dumpsite because you wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the law enforcement authorities. For best purposes, we advise a round the clock procedure, with the final touches from the beginning of the last month of every quarter.

This is just a simple framework to ensure an effective and efficient medical waste management system.

Let us know what you think in the comment sections.

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