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Commonly Used Methods for Medical Wastes

The medical industry releases a lot of waste each year. There are several methods for treating Regulated Medical Waste (RMW). Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will look at some of the common medical waste treatment processes.

1.    Incineration
This is a common waste treatment that involves burning waste material in the presence of oxygen in temperatures ranging from 1800 degrees F to 2,000 degrees F. This approach offers numerous advantages including reducing waste volume quickly, easy disposal method and lowers transportation costs.
However, it is not without its downsides one of them being emissions concerns.

2.    Gas Sterilization
This method involves feeding medical waste into an evacuated air-tight chamber and treating it with sterilization agents like formaldehyde or ethylene oxide (although not recommended by EPA because of its toxicity). When the gas meets with the waste, it kills the infectious and harmful agents.

3.    Chemical Disinfection

In this method, disinfection chemical agents like chlorine are used to treat liquid wastes. Although it is recommended for liquid wastes, it can also be used for solid wastes.

4.    Autoclaving
Also known as steam sterilization, autoclaving is another common medical waste treatment. It involves sterilizing or disinfecting waste before disposing in a landfill. It is less costly and does not have any health impacts, making it a great alternative for the incineration method.

5.    Irradiation
Irradiation is the process of exposing waste to a cobalt source to sterilize it. This method is, however, costly and not recommended for pathological waste.

6.    Microwave
The microwave treatment process disinfects wastes by internally heating it to neutralize all biologicals. Like autoclaving, this method treats 90% of medical wastes.

7.    Thermal Inactivation
In this method, medical waste is heated to temperatures that can kill infectious agents. This method works best for treating large volumes of liquid medical wastes.


These are some of the common waste treatment methods used to reduce the volume and toxicity of solid and liquid medical wastes. The methods chosen depends on the composition, form and volume of waste.