The purpose of our work was to determine whether Alberta Health Services has effective systems to manage its healthcare waste materials handling and disposal. For purposes of this report, the term “healthcare waste materials” includes biomedical and chemical waste as defined by AHS.

Why it is important to Albertans

The cost of healthcare waste materials management is not high in relation to AHS’s total annual budget of more than $10 billion (see Appendix). However, the potential risks associated with healthcare waste materials are significant, including:

  • human health risks such as infection or injury from direct contact with biomedical waste by patients, healthcare workers, visitors, cleaning staff, waste collectors, processors and recyclers.
  • environmental risks (ground, air and water contamination)—Healthcare waste materials may contain substances that are infectious, toxic, radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive or otherwise harmful if not safely disposed of.
  • reputational risk—Healthcare waste incidents may raise fears, aesthetic concerns or loss of confidence in the healthcare system.
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