Posted on October 25, 2016

Sanitation of medical waste is a complicated matter with a wide variety of methods available to complete the process. Below I will go over the most common methods and their pros and cons.

Why is Medical Waste Sanitized?

Every day, there are thousands of pounds of infectious waste being produced worldwide. When this waste is disposed of improperly it is very easy to contaminate water supplies and local wildlife. There are a couple ways that this process can be handled. In the past, this process was not required and hazardous medical waste would be sent straight to the landfill. But to protect the environment, laws and regulations have been put into place since the early 1990’s.


Incineration is one the oldest methods used for the treatment of medical waste. This process is as simple as the name. It is the process in which medical wastes burns and produces combustion gases and ashes. These combustible gases are then released into the environment either directly after treatment or after going through an air pollution control device. The residue, or ashes, are then sent to a landfill for the final process of disposal. The usage of incineration for medical waste is slowly becoming not rational anymore in our modern day era. The lack of air pollution control devices and inappropriate operation are some of the main factors behind why incineration is becoming less popular.


One of the newest methods to properly sanitize medical waste is the autoclave. This is the process of placing the medical waste into a machine, and with steam, moisture, heat and pressure, it kills the micro-organisms, sterilizing the waste. It is most effective method of sterilization when it comes to the destruction of bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi, and other pathogenic micro-organisms. While incineration might be more cost-effective compared to autoclave, it doesn’t compare to the impact on the environment. Autoclaving still has its limitations, as it cannot take care of hazardous materials like chemical waste and pharmaceutical waste.