Although as ophthalmologists, we generally don’t generate much medical waste, we still need to arrange disposal. Of the few options available, only one seems to be practical. You could have a medical waste management company pick up your waste on an as needed or regular basis, or you could even set up your own incinerator or industrial autoclave. Obviously the latter option makes absolutely no sense. The first option, although viable, tends to be more expensive than the best option of using a mail-in service.
There are a few different forms of waste: biohazard, sharps, and pharmaceutical. I think each needs its own separate waste container because each goes through a different type of disposal process. There are many mail-in medical waste services, and not all of them handle their waste the same way. In California, the department of public health provides a list of approved companies from which we can choose.
Pretty much what you do is, you pay an exorbitant amount of money (relatively speaking) for an empty red plastic container, which you get in the mail. They also send you a prepaid special return shipping box. Once you fill up your waste, you mail it back in this box. Then, they get rid of the waste and send you a certificate of disposal.
In California, the following companies are kosher:
Check with your state’s department of public health or environmental services to see which companies you can use.
I ended up going with XMED Disposal. I bought a 5 gallon biohazard bucket for $105. The unique thing about this company is that I’m allowed to throw in a full sharps container into the bucket, making it a biohazard/sharps disposal unit. Some companies don’t let you do that. Instead, you have to buy a separate sharps mailing kit, for which a 1 quart container costs $30 or so. Instead, I paid $2 at Eye Supply USA or Eye Care and Cure. I don’t remember.
In addition finding disposal arrangements, I had to submit a medical waste permit application to the county’s department of environmental health. In Santa Clara County, anything below 200 lbs a month is considered a small quantity generator, and is not subject to as many rules and regulations. I’m not sure how much the permit is going to cost, but I’m thinking $50 to $100 per year. They told me that they would send me a bill.