What is Medical Waste Treatment?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2019
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Medical waste treatment is the processing of medical waste to render it safe. This can include destruction of waste materials or activities like water treatment to remove impurities. This is required by law in many regions of the world, as medical waste is considered a hazard to human health and safety. Companies specializing in handling medical waste offer services to facilities that do not want to process their own waste or lack the ability to do so.

One option for medical waste treatment is destroying it in an incinerator. Biohazardous materials, for example, can be burned at high temperatures by waste control personnel. The high heat kills any pathogenic organisms that may be present in the waste and reduces it to ash. The ash can be buried or stored in drums for disposal. It is a relatively inert byproduct. In addition to being a useful method for waste disposal, incineration can also generate heat for medical facilities.

Disposal as-is in drums designed for medical waste is another option. Once full, these drums can be stored in a facility designated for medical waste. Some companies offer sterilization of medical waste to allow it to be released into conventional landfills for breakdown. Sterilization can also make it possible to reuse recyclable materials in medical waste like metals and plastics.


This area of the waste management field intersects with other types of waste disposal. Some medical waste contains radiologically active materials, for instance, and must be handled in a facility equipped to handle nuclear waste. It can be sequestered until the materials have broken down and no longer pose a hazard. In facilities where nuclear medicine is practiced, the law may require a contract with a company that handles nuclear waste in order to ensure proper medical waste treatment.

Home medical waste is another issue with medical waste treatment. People providing medical care at home may need to obtain a sharps container and other equipment for the medical waste they generate, making arrangements with a waste management company to periodically pick up the waste for safe disposal. Home health services may provide waste management or refer their patients to companies offering medical waste treatment.

People working in the field of medical waste treatment can be involved in handling and processing waste, designing systems for treating medical waste more safely and efficiently, and administering waste disposal companies. Administrative staff are involved in establishing relationships with new customers, billing, and other activities related to keeping the company running smoothly.



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