Histology Trash Cans

Tomorrow, Wednesday April 22nd is Earth Day and while all of the social distancing measures put into place to fight COVID-19 are putting a strain on us humans, the planet is flourishing with less pollution. In honor of Earth Day, today’s post is about waste.

We have done several other posts related to waste, including one last Earth Day on hazardous waste vs biohazardous waste. Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. (Check out NSH’s hazardous waste infographic!). Biohazardous waste, however, specifically refers to waste containing potentially infectious materials, such as blood, body fluids, tissue specimens etc. You can read more about the types of biohazardous waste in that post.

We also did a post on managing hazardous waste. The EPA breaks down hazardous waste into 4 categories based on the characteristics of the waste: Ignitability, Corrosivity, Reactivity, Toxicity. Learn more about what kind of waste your lab is producing here.

Today’s post focuses on something much more simple… the trashcan itself. When a block goes missing you’ve sometimes got to check the trash for fear that it landed in there by mistake. Many labs have processes in place to cut down on the likelihood of this happening, and the work that needs to be done to correct it. For example, collecting the garbage from cutting stations and combining it into one large bag. You can hold onto the trash for a day or so, so that you have it to dig through by the time someone recognizes a block is missing.

The type of trashcan can also cut down on the number of accidental trash blocks. One with a foot pedal and closing lid is ideal. This is already usually a requirement for biohazard trash cans, but if you’re putting your shavings from cutting in the regular trash you might not already have this in place. (Your regular paraffin shavings from fixed tissue can go in the regular trash, but frozen shavings from unfixed tissue are usually considered a biohazard material.)

If you’re using a specimen tracking system you can run reports at the end of shifts to make sure that all processed blocks have been cut. Using different labeled bins for each station’s trash can also be beneficial, particularly if you are using a LIS and can identify where in the chain something has gone missing.

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