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The Challenge of Medical Waste Management

When it comes to managing medical waste, healthcare facilities deemed it a worldwide challenge. Roughly 10%-20% of a facility's annual budget is spent on waste disposal.

According to the WHO, approximately 85 percent of all waste generated is considered non-hazardous. That said, experts classify the remaining 15% as infectious, toxic, or radioactive.

As a result, medical professionals and frontliners take precautions to ensure such waste materials' safe disposal. This way, we can avoid adverse environmental effects or biological hazards, particularly in developing countries.

Reduction of Health Hazards

There are harmful microorganisms contained in biologically hazardous waste. If this is not correctly disposed of, it can be a source of infection.

Moreover, those most at risk are hospital patients, medical personnel, and health workers. Furthermore, the situation could also be detrimental to the general public.

Other risks can arise from improper needle and syringe disposal. Studies show that, in estimation, approximately 16 billion infectious diseases blight people through this type of garbage annually.

Unfortunately, needles that are not safely disposed of also run the risk of accidental re-use. While this probability has fallen sharply over time, dangerous infections continue to account for many new HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C cases.

Environmental Impact

Incorrect disposal of the unsanitized and potentially harmful healthcare waste in landfills can contaminate drinking and groundwater. Moreover, the trash can as well as release hazardous chemical substances into the environment.

Inadequate waste incineration can also result in the release of hazardous pollutants into the air and the production of dioxins and furans. Unfortunately, these are substances linked to causing cancer and other adverse health conditions.


We have a long way to go and many more to do before determining the most efficient ways to dispose of hazardous healthcare waste. In 2015, a joint WHO/UNICEF assessment discovered that only 58 percent of analyzed facilities across 24 countries had proper waste disposal systems.

While non-hazardous medical waste poses fewer problems, the risks and challenges associated with managing hazardous medical waste must be carefully considered.

That said, disposal options such as open burning and incineration of this dangerous medical garbage may lead to the harmful proliferation of gas emissions and hazardous pollutants. However, we can see a silver lining to this with the improved methods applied in recent years.