Frequently Asked Questions
The subject of medical waste can be both complicated and confusing. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Please reference the list below for answers to questions that are frequently asked of us.
What is medical waste?
Medical waste is a subset of wastes generated at health care facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories. Generally, medical waste is healthcare waste that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials. Medical waste is frequently referred to as biohazardous waste, biomedical waste, clinical waste, regulated medical waste (RMW), other potentially infectious material (OPIM), potentially infectious medical waste (PIMW), or through its UN classification number, UN 3291.
What are the different types of regulated medical wastes?
Biomedical, Biohazard, or Red Bag Waste: These materials represent the largest portion of the medical waste stream. Materials include potentially infectious materials, blood products, contaminated personal protective equipment and bandages, IV tubing, and cultures.
Sharps: Materials include needles, ampules, broken glass, blades, razors, stables, trocars, guide wires, disposable surgical instruments, or any other item that has the potential of puncturing skin.
Trace Chemotherapy Waste: Materials utilized for chemotherapy treatments which may contain some small residual material from this activity. Materials include empty vials, empty syringes, empty IVs, contaminated gowns, gloves, tubing, aprons, wipes, and packaging. These wastes must be segregated by the generator and then incinerated for proper treatment.
Bulk Chemotherapy Waste: This includes all bulk or unused chemotherapy drugs. Envirolaska does not accept bulk chemotherapy wastes.
RCRA Pharmaceuticals: This includes material assigned a P or U code which are wastes that exhibit characteristics of corrosivity, flammability, reactivity, or toxicity. These items are considered hazardous waste and are not accepted by Envirolaska. In addition, Envirolaska does not accept DEA regulated or controlled pharmaceutical substances.
Non-Hazardous Pharmaceuticals: This primarily includes all pharmaceutical waste which is a chemical waste product, vaccine, or allergenic that does not contain a radioactive component which is intended for use in the diagnosis, care, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or injury in humans or animals. These wastes are not regulated under RCRA legislation.
Pathological Waste: Pathological waste includes human and animal tissues. These wastes must be segregated by the generator and then incinerated for proper treatment.
Radioactive Wastes: This primarily includes radioactive material generated through diagnostic activity within the health care industry. Envirolaska does not accept radioactive wastes.
Why is this service important?
In addition to the requirements established through federal, state, and local regulations, the proper management of medical waste, including storage, transportation, treatment, and disposal ensures that the potentially infectious materials within this waste stream cannot be passed to other individuals or animals who may be exposed to it. The effective management of this waste stream protects both public health and our environment.
In what areas do you offer collection services?
We currently service facilities within the Anchorage municipality. If you are outside of Anchorage, but on the road system, please contact us to learn when we may be expanding to your area. Customers can also utilize our fully compliant mail-back solutions in any community that is serviced by the USPS.
Do you have customer service representatives?
Of course! Friendly and knowledgeable customer services reps are available to answer your questions whenever they may arise. Please contact us if there is anything we can do to be of assistance.
Can you support our compliance and training programs?
Absolutely. Envirolaska offers no obligation audits to help current and prospective customers ensure that they are providing all required training for their staff and managing biomedical wastes at their facility according to all current federal, state, and local regulations. In fact, we provide all Envirolaska customers with a custom Biomedical Waste Operating Plan free of charge for this specific purpose.
All customers also receive complementary access to Envirolaska’s compliance training portal. Through this resource, our customers are able to obtain all required OSHA, HIPAA, and DOT training associated with medical waste. Customers can easily generate custom safety plans, manage SDS materials, complete audits, and generate incident reports among many other features with this system. It is a powerful tool that greatly simplifies safety and compliance activities for our customers.
Envirolaska is the only medical waste service provider in Alaska to offer this resource. More information about our helathcare compliance solutions can be found here.
What type of facilities do you service?
We service all types of small, medium, and large facilities generating regulated medical wastes including:
- Ambulatory Centers
- Animal orphanages
- Assisted living homes
- Blood banks
- Dentist offices
- Dialysis centers
- Funeral homes
- Government agencies
- Health departments
- Hematologist / Oncologist
- Hospital satellite facilities
- Imaging centers
- Medical laboratories
- Nursing homes
- OB/GYN offices
- Oral surgery centers
- Outpatient surgery centers
- Pediatrician offices
- Physician offices
- Prisons / Correctional facilities
- Property management groups
- Radiology facilities
- Schools and Colleges
- Tattoo parlors and body modification shops
- Testing centers
- Urologist offices
- Urgent care centers
- Veterinary offices
Do different types of waste have to be segregated?
Yes. Trace chemotherapy, pathological, pharmaceutical, and sharps must be packaged in separate containers from general biohazard wastes. Please contact us for appropriate containers or with any specific questions you may have.
What should be placed in my medical waste container?
General biohazard wastes should be placed in your medical waste container including, but not limited to, gauze, table paper, blood soaked items, bandages, along with contaminated intravenous bags, tubing, soft plastic items, gloves, gowns, petri dishes, and empty plastic containers.
Essentially, you should dispose of any item that may contain potentially infectious material into your collection container. Loose sharps should NEVER be placed in a medical waste container.
What should not be placed in my medical waste container?
In order to reduce your processing volumes and remain compliant, the following items should NOT be placed into your medical waste containers:
- Soiled linens. These items can be effectively sterilized through standard laundry service
- Loose syringes or needles or other sharps. Placing these items into an open waste container can result in injury to other employees or service providers
- Loose liquids in excess of 20cc
- Chemical or radioactive wastes
- Hazardous, chemical, radioactive, or DEA controlled pharmaceuticals or substances
- Compressed gas cylinders or containers under pressure
- Any mercury containing material or device including, but not limited to, thermometers, non-contact and contact amalgam dental products, and fillings
- Food wastes or other non-infectious garbage
What should be placed in my sharps container?
Any item which may contain or could have been exposed to a potentially infectious material that has the potential of puncturing a red biohazard bag should be placed in an OSHA approved sharps container. These materials would include needles, syringes, lancets, pointy hard plastic items, pipettes, sharp or pointy metal items, scalpels, knives, razor blades, tweezers, scissors, along with glassware items including glass tubes, vials, bottles, slides, or vacutainers.
How do I package my medical waste?
Per federal regulation, medical waste generators are responsible for packaging and preparing their waste for collection. The process of preparing these wastes for collection is as follows:
Step 1: Line your container with a properly marked biohazard bag prior to use.
Step 2: Tie the bag when the container is full. Each bag must be hand-tied by gathering and twisting the neck of the bag.
Step 3: Secure the lid on the container. Make sure all closure and/or locking mechanisms are engaged. Red bags must not be visible once the container is closed.
Step 4: Check the containers markings. Ensure that federal markings (biohazard symbol, this-side-up-arrows, regulated medical waste, N.O.S., and UN number) are present. Ensure you’re complying with your individual state regulations.
Do you provide services for rural Alaska generators?
Yes. Customers can purchase USPS compliant mail-back kits from Envirolaska to safely dispose of their medical waste. The price of these kits includes the kit itself and return postage. When the kit is received, generators place general biohazard and sealed OSHA approved sharps containers inside of the primary container.
Once filled, customers package the waste per the included instructions and deliver to their local USPS facility for return shipment to Envirolaska. All return postage is prepaid and included with the price of our kits. You can learn more about our mail-back solutions here.
Do you collect from residences?
No. At this time, we provide collection service for commercial entities.
How can I dispose of my personal medications?
Pharmaceutical wastes and expired medicines, even in small quantities, should not be directly discarded into the municipal sewer system due to the potential risks of contaminating the water supply we all rely on. Several public disposal sites in the Anchorage area exist including the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. The Municipality of Anchorage also accepts expired medications and drugs. Information on these locations can be found by searching the map linked here.
Do you require an agreement for service?
Yes. Our agreements articulate the terms, conditions, and responsibilities involving the management of wastes associated with a highly regulated waste stream. Service agreements may be canceled at any time, however, they are an important step in reducing the liabilities and defining the responsibilities associated with this waste stream for all involved.
Whether you choose to work with Envirolaska or not, you should require your provider to present documentation of the services provided and coverages extended due to your “Cradle to Grave” responsibilities associated with these wastes. Without any agreement in place, your liability exposure involving these wastes is greatly exacerbated.
How will I receive documentation that my wastes have been effectively treated?
All customers have access to their shipping and destruction manifests through our online customer portal. In addition, customers can use this same portal to review and pay invoices, manage their scheduling, request service, and more! No other medical waste service provider in the Alaska market offers these capabilities.
To learn more about the capabilities of this resource, please view our software technology page.
When can you begin servicing my facility?
Generally, we can have a new customer up and running with our service within two days. Please contact us to request a quote for service as an initial step.
Mailback Frequently Asked Questions
Is Envirolaska’s mailback service legal and compliant?
Yes. Envirolaska’s mailback service is a legal and compliant solution for the disposal of your sharps through the USPS. Envirolaska is the only Alaska medical waste service provider to offer USPS-authorized solutions. This is documented through unique authorization numbers printed on each system offered through Envirolaska. If you cannot clearly identify a USPS-authorization on the packaging supplied by an authorized vendor, your system is not legally allowed to transported via USPS and, consequently, your practice maintains full liability for its use.
What goes into collection containers and how do I determine the right system for my needs?
If your practice generates only sharps, one of our smaller systems may meet your needs best. Individual sharps, like needles and syringes, as well as other used healthcare materials, may be disposed of in our smaller systems. Collection containers over 3 gallons may not contain loose sharps per USPS regulation, however, larger collection containers offered through Envirolaska are designed to hold several smaller collection containers and general biomedical wastes. Larger systems (5-28 gallons) may fit your practice’s needs better if you generate both sharps and soft medical wastes requiring treatment. If utilizing a larger system for medical waste and sharps, you must first secure all sharps in a container under 3 gallons, then place those containers into the larger collection container system for disposal.
Is there a weight limit for collection container systems?
Yes. All collection container systems have weight limits which are listed on the front of the box. If your system exceeds the amount listed on the front of the box, additional fees for pickup and disposal may apply.
How do I track my waste and receive treatment documentation with Envirolaska’s mailback systems?
Every system offered by Envirolaska is shipped with a unique tracking numbers regarding shipping and manifest management to provide full visibility into shipping and treatment information. Also included with each system is a waste tracking manifest. This manifest is preprinted with your facility’s information, however, will need to be signed prior to return shipment. Once your wastes are received at Envirolaska, the manifest is signed by our representatives to confirm that your waste has been properly treated. This manifest receipt will then be emailed and digitally stored in your online account.
How much does it cost to use Envirolaska’s mailback service?
The price shown next to each product is the all-inclusive price. This includes the costs for all outbound and return shipping along with waste treatment/disposal for all offered systems. In addition all mailback customers receive complementary access to our online account management system to access treatment records as required 24/7/365. Envirolaska is the only service provider in Alaska with these capabilities.
Can I use your larger Collection Container Systems to store and return different sizes/types of collection containers?
Any FDA-approved sharps container 3 gallons and under can be stored inside of Envirolaska’s larger (5- 8- 18- and 28-gallon) systems. If you purchased any of our smaller systems under 3 gallons in capacity, these should be returned together using the pre-paid return shipping box that is included with each system.
Still need help? Contact Envirolaska today if our knowledgeable staff can help answer any questions you may have regarding medical waste disposal for your practice.