Medical Waste in the Times of COVID

More COVID vaccines means more syringes and test kits. But what happens to all that stuff? Maybe you’ve wondered: is it something I need to be concerned about?

Not to worry – we’ve got it under control.

Charly Fritz, deputy director of TCEQ’s Waste Permits Division, which regulates the processing and disposal of medical waste, expects to see an uptick in the volume of such items, but nothing the state’s authorized medical waste facilities can’t handle.

Medical waste comes from hospitals, doctor and dentist offices, veterinary clinics, and research labs. In addition to syringes and other vaccination sundries, items requiring disposal include scalpels (‘sharps’ in healthcare speak), bodily fluids, microbiological waste, and amputated limbs. (Human remains are not classified as medical waste and are handled separately. Learn more about what’s considered medical waste and what isn’t.)

TCEQ rules oversee how the waste should be stored on-site, as well as the transportation of medical refuse by registered carriers to processing facilities. The waste is then treated to eliminate the risk of pathogens and is prepared for disposal in landfills.

Fritz says the waste is treated in one of four common ways: incineration, steam sterilization (aka autoclave), chlorine disinfection, or chemical disinfection.

Once the medical waste has been treated and any risk of infection has been removed, it is transported to a Municipal Solid Waste facility for disposal, she adds.

Phew! One less COVID-related issue to fret about.

For more on how TCEQ manages the disposal of medical waste, watch this video or read these annual reports.


Charly Fritz, Deputy Director of Waste Permits Division

Charly Fritz started with the TCEQ in 2006 as a member of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, where she reviewed applications, issued authorizations, and conducted compliance investigations.  Charly also conducted stormwater investigations and launched the Aggregate Production Operation Program.  In 2013, Charly transferred to the Waste Permits Division and severed as project manager before moving into leadership positions.  Today, Charly is Deputy Director of the Waste Permits Division and leads a team of 78 staff who authorize the proper and safe management, recycling, and disposal of municipal, industrial, and hazardous waste in Texas.


Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash