Waste Management

The Issue

Hospitals generate millions of tons of waste each year. In the past, many hospitals simply dumped all waste streams together, from reception-area trash to operating-room waste, and burned them in incinerators — and this is still common practice in many developing countries.

Yet medical waste incineration is a leading source of dioxin, mercury, lead and other dangerous pollutants that threaten human health and the environment. Despite these dangers, many governments, public health agencies, international organizations and transnational corporations continue to promote incineration technologies as waste management "solutions."

Fortunately, safer no-burn technologies are available to effectively treat and disinfect medical waste. Health Care Without Harm is collaborating with health care systems, NGOs, governments and international agencies such as the World Health Organization to research and promote environmentally sound and healthy alternatives to medical waste incineration.

HCWH’s sister organization, Practice Greenhealth, offers a wealth of tools and resources for hospitals to reduce the amount of all waste generated, to reduce the toxicity of waste by making smarter purchasing decisions upstream, and by properly segregating and recycling waste.