Stericycle is a large, global corporation headquartered in Illinois that specializes in the handling and disposal of hazardous waste for businesses, particularly medical and pharmaceutical waste from healthcare businesses like hospitals and doctor's offices. In addition to the removal and disposal of such waste, they can also provide training to the staff at these businesses in the proper procedures on how to handle and store this waste.
Proper waste management is very important in order to protect human health and the environment. Medical waste includes discarded blood, tissue, urine, and feces samples and all of the materials that come into contact with them. It also includes used hypodermic needles and pharmaceutical materials. Medical waste cannot be simply disposed of in standard municipal waste systems because in most cases that waste ultimately makes its way into a landfill. If medical waste were to make its way into landfills, harmful bacteria or chemicals could find its way into local soil and water systems, thus putting human health in danger. In addition, people who handle waste for a living would be exposed to it, thus creating an unacceptable hazard.
Hazardous waste management is a highly regulated field. Businesses that generate such waste are inspected periodically to make sure that all proper procedures are in place and that all staff that handle such waste have been properly trained and documented. Medical waste is to be separated from regular trash into separate, clearly marked containers, usually with bright red coloring to make the distinction more noticeable. Used needles are to be segregated and stored in specialized containers to minimize the danger of getting stuck by a used needle. Medical waste regulations also vary from state to state, so businesses like Stericycle can learn the specifics about waste handling regulations for a particular area and then provide training to others in that area to ensure proper compliance. Penalties for non-compliance with medical waste regulations can be severe, ranging from fines to shutdowns to prison time in extreme cases.