Why We Need to Change

The most widely used medical waste treatment technologies around the world are autoclaves and incinerators.  The majority of medical waste is red bagged, steam treated by autoclave and buried.  Pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy and pathological waste streams are transported long distances to neighboring states to be incinerated.  Below is a snapshot of these commercial technologies and their impact to public health and the environment.



Commercial Medical Waste Autoclave

An autoclave is an industrial pressure cooker.  Natural gas is used to heat boilers to temperatures of 148°C  or 298°F  to create steam in the pressurized vessel.  Medical waste is loaded into carts and pushed into the unit where it is steam treated. Millions of gallons of water are used and disposed into the sewer.  Offensive odors from moisture treated human waste and semi melted plastics are created and vented outside to the surrounding community.  Efficacy is questionable as closed and sealed infectious red bags are stacked on top of each other.  After treatment, saturated waste is transported to the landfill.  It is still recognizable and buried in full form. There is NO volume reduction making it a public health and environmental hazard for generations to come.    Results of this antiquated heat and energy intensive process  is shown below.

Autoclaved Medical Waste at the Landfill. Photo courtesy: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Treated Autoclaved and Ozone Processed Medical Waste at the Landfill.  Photo courtesy: Tri County Health Dept.


The Medical Waste Incinerator

Medical waste incineration involves the burning of waste by combustion at temperatures of 1,100° C or 2000° F.  Incineration is the primary disposal method for pathological, pharmaceutical and chemotherapy (radioactive) waste. There are no medical waste incinerators in Colorado. Few incinerators remain in the U.S. due to their toxic emissions of dioxins, furans and heavy metals which are known cancer causing carcinogens. Human exposure is linked to respiratory illness, impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. Crops, animals, fish, soil and water sources are subject to contamination and illness from these toxic airborne pollutants.  Heat and energy intensive incinerators are heavy consumers of natural gas used to achieve high combustion temperatures.


Now that you’re educated on the technologies used to process medical waste…

Are You Disposing of Your Medical Waste Responsibly?

Join Colorado Medical Waste and become environmental stewards and sustainability partners because its time for change.  The medical waste process of the future is here today. Let us help you achieve your regulated medical waste sustainability goals.  We make it easy, convenient and cost effective to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare and medical waste.  Together, we can make a difference!