Tips for Waste Reduction

Most wastes produced by the healthcare sector are simply municipal wastes. These can undergo recovery and recycling. With proper segregation in place, the amount of infectious medical wastes, hazardous wastes and radioactive wastes can be reduced to 2-25%.

Minimizing waste not only protects people and the environment, but it can save your facility substantial amounts of money.

Waste Minimization Techniques

  • Segregation
    Separating different types of waste at the point of generation and keeping them isolated from each other. By doing this, appropriate resource recovery and recycling techniques can be applied to each separate waste stream. The amounts of infectious waste, hazardous waste and low-level radioactive waste that must be treated according to special (and usually costly) requirements are minimized.
  • Source Reduction
    Minimizing or eliminating the generation of waste at the source itself through techniques such as product substitution, technology change and good operating practices. Through purchasing and product substitution, toxicity of waste can also be reduced.
  • Resource Recovery and Recycling
    Recovery and reuse of materials from the waste stream. The majority of waste from health care facilities is surprisingly similar to that of an office building or hotel — paper, cardboard and food waste. Hospitals can implement fairly simple programs that divert these materials from the solid waste stream, lowering disposal costs.

HCWH and our partners have developed a number of useful resources to help waste handlers to minimize waste in health care facilities.

Responsible Waste Treatment

Before going to the disposal site, infectious wastes must undergo treatment processes: autoclaving, thermal disinfection, microwave sanitation or incineration. Environmentally sustainable hospital waste management aims to restrict the amount of wastes undergoing incineration.

To learn more about safer alternatives to incineration, see Alternatives to Incineration.