Some medical waste streams are regulated at the state and local level, while others may be governed by federal regulations. States develop regulations for office and municipal type waste, whereas the federal government develops regulations for hazardous waste such as mercury or radioactive wastes. State regulations generally cover potentially infectious medical waste, sometimes referred to as regulated medical waste.
The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 defines medical waste as "any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals." This definition includes, but is not limited to:
- blood-soaked bandages
- culture dishes and other glassware
- discarded surgical gloves
- discarded surgical instruments
- discarded needles used to give shots or draw blood (e.g., medical sharps)
- cultures, stocks, swabs used to inoculate cultures
- removed body organs (e.g., tonsils, appendices, limbs)
- discarded lancets
The permit outlines facility design, process information, emergency plans, and employee training plans. The IDEM has the authority to issue or deny permits, and is responsible for monitoring the facility to ensure that it is complying with the conditions in the permit.
All facilities that currently or plan to treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste must obtain a hazardous waste permit.
Situations where a company is not required to obtain a hazardous waste permit include:
- Businesses that generate hazardous waste and transport it off-site without storing it for long periods of time.
- Businesses that transport hazardous waste.
- Under certain circumstances, on-site treatment by the generator of wastes, if done in tanks or containers.
- Treatment facilities use various processes (such as incineration) to alter the character or composition of hazardous wastes.
- Storage facilities temporarily hold hazardous wastes until they are treated or disposed of.
- Disposal facilities permanently contain hazardous wastes. The most common type of disposal facility is a landfill.