Every year, over a million Americans undergo chemotherapy treatment. Thanks to advances in cancer treatments, many of these patients will go into remission and can lead healthy and happy lives. However, that chemotherapy treatment produces waste, and that waste requires specialized disposal.
Due to the radioactive nature of chemotherapy treatment, waste can’t simply be tossed in the trash. It requires special care in its disposal and handling, but what that entails depends on the type of waste, and whether it’s bulk or trace chemotherapy waste.
What Qualifies as Chemotherapy Waste
Chemotherapy waste is more than just the drugs and medication involved in the treatment. It includes the tubing, PPE, syringes, and potentially anything that comes into contact with the patient or provider while they’re receiving the treatment.
While new drugs are being researched and coming to market every year, the 9 most common in current cancer treatment are:
- Arsenic Trioxide
- Mitomycin C
- Uracil Mustard
Anything that comes into contact with these drugs, or drugs of similar classification, will need to be treated as either trace or bulk chemotherapy waste and you will need to follow proper disposal protocols.
Types of Chemotherapy Waste and Disposal Methods
The main distinction you need to make when it comes to chemotherapy waste disposal comes down to whether it qualifies as bulk or trace chemotherapy waste. In most cases, the majority of your chemotherapy waste will fall under the trace category.
Trace chemotherapy waste includes everything used in chemotherapy treatment that could contain residue. This includes PPE used in the process, used IV bags and syringes, empty drug bottles, or empty containers. Under RCRA guidelines, these items must have a chemotherapy waste component volume or weight of under 3%.
On the other hand, bulk chemotherapy waste encompasses items used in treatment that are above the 3% weight or volume threshold. Containers that still contain drugs, soaked PPE, partially filled IV bags, or anything used to clean chemotherapy related spills likely fall into this category.
Trace Waste Disposal
Disposal for trace waste follows a simple process. All trace chemotherapy waste, excluding sharps, should be placed in a specifically labeled container, typically a yellow one. Sharps with trace chemotherapy waste should be placed in a separate chemotherapy sharps container for their disposal.
Once those containers fill up, you can either contact a medical waste disposal company to pick them up, or send them to an approved incinerator in your area.
Bulk Waste Disposal
Bulk chemotherapy waste requires more specialized disposal, as due to the nature of most of the drugs used in treatment it needs to follow hazardous waste disposal protocols. Any waste under this designation should be handled with care and placed in a specific container, typically a black one, but that’s not a requirement.
Unlike trace waste, the medical waste disposal company must be certified in hazardous waste disposal. This involves certification through the EPA, along with state and local regulatory bodies.
Chemotherapy Waste Disposal Options
While chemotherapy treatments typically run 3-6 months, a pick-up of chemotherapy waste might only be necessary a few times, or even just once, during the process. Some treatments are even shorter, and might only require one pick-up, particularly if it’s part of a home-care treatment.
In these cases, an on-demand pickup might present the best option for dealing with the medical waste produced. For a one-time pickup, all you need to do is get in touch with a medical waste disposal company and set up a time and place for the pick-up. The disposal provider comes to you, and then takes the bulk and/or trace waste to an approved disposal site.
Setting up a recurring pick-up often makes the most sense for clinics and other healthcare organizations that run chemotherapy sessions on a regular basis with multiple patients. Due to the length of treatment and the higher volume of patients, more waste is produced on a consistent basis, and regular scheduled pick-ups make more sense than individually scheduling each one.
For a recurring pick-up, a medical waste disposal provider will arrive at a set date and time at whatever interval works best for your clinic or practice. This typically falls into weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly pickups, but a higher or lower volume can be arranged depending on your practice’s needs.
Find Your Chemotherapy Waste Disposal Solution with Medical Waste Pros
Medical Waste Pros partners with certified and trusted medical waste disposal partners across the country. We offer solutions to chemotherapy waste disposal that follow all local, state, and federal regulations, all at an affordable price. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370, or fill out the form on the page, and we’ll connect you to a local partner who can help with all of your medical waste needs.