Incidence of healthcare waste in recycling materials cooperatives

ABSTRACT Healthcare waste (HCW) is all the waste generated by human or animal health care activities. HCW is classified into five groups, of which a portion presents hazardousness. Brazilian legislation recommends that waste belonging to Group D be recycled. However, based on the poor existing waste segregation, the forwarding of these materials presents risks to the professionals who handle them inside and out of health care facilities, including the workers within recyclable material waste picker cooperatives. In such a context, this study aimed to investigate the presence of HCW inappropriately sent to waste pickers cooperatives of a municipality in the south of Rio Grande do Sul. To this end, a qualitative and quantitative characterization of HCW incidence in the five cooperatives of the municipality was performed during the period of four weeks. From the results obtained, it was possible to verify the presence of HCW in the municipal selective waste collection program and that HCW quantities vary according to the waste pickers cooperative studied and the week being evaluated. At the end of the characterizations, 36.23 kg of HCW were quantified amongst all the cooperatives. Such results indicate flaws in HCW segregation and destination, either by the population and/or by health care facilities, in addition to showing the fragility in the municipality’s selective waste collection program. In view of this, it is necessary to implement public policies, both educational and supervisory, that can ensure greater safety in the work environment of recyclable material waste picker cooperatives.