How is medical waste disposed of today?

Updated on November 16, 2020


The methods for disposing of medical waste have certainly evolved a lot over the ages (source: In this article, you’ll get to learn more about how hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other medical facilities dispose of their own waste, and what methods stand out among the others!

This is why it’s important to know how medical waste is disposed of

The importance of medical waste disposal is unquestionable, both for the safety of our environment and the people living in it. Any waste originating from medical facilities has the potential to be infectious, and thus, handling it can pose some serious risks without the proper equipment, storage methods, and of course, final disposal options.

It is the duty of staff and management alike to fight against possible infections spreading within, as well as outside the walls of a medical facility, by minimizing the risks associated with the transportation and removal of medical waste.

Incineration: is this how medical waste should be disposed of?

Incineration is one of the oldest methods for medical waste disposal and remains a popular way to completely destroy infectious and hazardous waste even today. Its effectiveness is no question, as it can neutralize most if not all safety hazards associated with medical waste. However, its sustainability is, as without a control device, all the exhaust air that constantly passes through their system can have a significant impact on air pollution. Because of this, it is also a much more regulated method, and depending on the volume of waste generated by a medical facility, may not even be allowed in the first place.

Autoclaving: this is how medical waste can be disposed of more sustainably

Autoclaves on the other hand do not suffer the same weakness as incinerators, and provide medical facilities with a very practical onsite solution suited their needs. With varying capacities and sizes available, even the smallest clinic and the largest hospital can find suitable steam sterilizers to handle the amount of waste they generate on a daily basis.

With cycle times that last about 20 minutes, autoclaves can quickly and efficiently sterilize the load inside their chamber. In the case of medical waste, this greatly reduces safety risks, as the waste can be prepped for transportation and/or disposal without having to worry about infections spreading. As for other medical tools and equipment, they can be sterilized to be used again!

Medical waste shredding: another take on how medical waste can be disposed of safely

Of course, some types of medical waste (like sharps, for example) are so hazardous that they require an even greater level of sterilization and “destruction” to avoid the risks associated with them. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean a hospital or a clinic absolutely needs to get an incinerator: there are other, more sustainable methods available.

Some medical waste shredders come equipped with the same sterilization procedures as autoclaves, and can thus bring the “best of both worlds”: powerful shredding blades to reduce the volume of the waste, and steam sterilization to kill any and all bacteria!

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