Medical waste management - A review

J Environ Manage. 2015 Nov 1:163:98-108. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Aug 22.


This paper examines medical waste management, including the common sources, governing legislation and handling and disposal methods. Many developed nations have medical waste legislation, however there is generally little guidance as to which objects can be defined as infectious. This lack of clarity has made sorting medical waste inefficient, thereby increasing the volume of waste treated for pathogens, which is commonly done by incineration. This review highlights that the unnecessary classification of waste as infectious results in higher disposal costs and an increase in undesirable environmental impacts. The review concludes that better education of healthcare workers and standardized sorting of medical waste streams are key avenues for efficient waste management at healthcare facilities, and that further research is required given the trend in increased medical waste production with increasing global GDP.

Keywords: Healthcare; Infectious waste; Medical waste; Separate collection; Waste management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Medical Waste Disposal / methods*
  • Medical Waste* / classification


  • Medical Waste
  • Medical Waste Disposal