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Can You Incinerate Waste from Hospitals?

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Hospitals have several options when it comes to waste disposal, depending on volume and the type of waste. When there is a wide range of waste streams that need to be disposed of, incineration is the preferred process.

Medical Waste Incineration

Medical waste incineration is the process of burning different types of wastes from hospitals and other medical facilities. In most cases, the incinerator runs at a high temperature of 1,800 degrees. Nevertheless, some operate between 900 degrees and 1200 degrees Celsius.

Incineration versus Autoclaving

One alternative to incineration is autoclaving, which is commonly used to treat medical tools and equipment with high temperatures. However, unlike incineration that uses extremely high temperatures of 1800 degrees Celsius, autoclaving operates at 300 degrees F.

Therefore, autoclaving cannot totally destroy certain medical wastes, as items are still generally intact after the process. With incineration, on the other hand, all that is left of the hospital waste is “ash” or “dust.”

Wastes That Need to Be in a Medical Waste Incinerator

There are different types of wastes that can go through incineration. They include:

•    General Medical Waste – This does not pose any particular hazard and typically includes paper, plastic, and other office waste.
•    Pathological waste – This includes body parts, fluids, human tissues, and contaminated animal carcasses.
•    Trace chemotherapy wastes – These are materials that have either come in contact with or may contain a residual amount of chemotherapy agent.
•    Sharps – Some of which are disposable scalpels and blades, needles, and syringes.
•    Type I-Type IV Red Bag Waste

The Process of Medical Waste Incineration

The process starts by thermally decomposing medical waste into the pyrolytic chamber. This process is done through an oxygen-deficient and medium-temperature combustion process of 800-900 degrees C. It then produces solid ashes and gasses. The gases are burned by a fuel burner in a post-combustion chamber at a high temperature of 900 to 1200 degrees C.
The dust is then taken to a Subtitle D landfill, where non-hazardous waste is destroyed.


With the increasing volume of medical waste, there is a need for incineration. In fact, this process is considered to be the safest and most efficient means, since hospital waste may jeopardize the health of staff and anyone else coming in contact with this.