23.3.3 Segregation of healthcare waste
Segregation is the process of separating different categories of waste. Healthcare waste is usually segregated into colour-coded waste bags or bins. This should take place at the source (when the waste is created). You should follow the guidelines for segregation of waste so that the different types of waste are kept separate and each can be handled safely and economically.
Healthcare facilities should provide coloured waste receptacles specifically for each category of waste. The colour-coding system aims to ensure immediate, easy and unambiguous (clear) identification and segregation of the waste which you are handling or going to treat. Based on the type of hazards involved, a different colour code and type of container is assigned and should be used as follows:
- Black: all bins or bags containing non-hazardous healthcare waste.
- Yellow: any kind of container filled with any type of infectious healthcare waste, including yellow safety boxes for sharps.
- Red: any kind of container filled with heavy metal or effluent.
- White: any container or bin filled with drug vials, ampoules or glass bottles for glass recycling or reuse.
You should also note that in a resource-limited Health Post, red containers can be omitted and heavy metals and other effluents can be handled as any other infectious waste using yellow containers. However, please don’t forget that heavy metals and other effluents should not be incinerated (burned) in final disposal sites. The Ethiopian Food, Medicine, Health Professionals Control and Regulatory Authority guidelines should be referred to about the disposal of pharmaceutical wastes. You should be able to obtain these guidelines from your supervisor or district health office.