Medical waste is generated as a result of diagnosis, treatment and immunization of humans or animals.
Although infectious waste is only a small part of the total waste generated by medical facilities, it accounts for a considerable portion of the costs incurred by a health care facility for the disposal of medical waste. In addition to the expenses resulting from treatment, the system used can have a great impact both in the environment as in the health and risks of persons involved in the process..
In developed countries, out of every 100 kg of waste generated in a sanitary centre, from 75 to 85 kg are of innocuous waste, and the remaining 15 to 25 kg are of the so called Hazardous Health Care Waste (HHCW). Still nowadays, main worldwide practice for treating that 25 kg of HHCW is incineration.
Of these, only one fourth is burnt in adequate incinerators. Leaving aside the energy consumed in the process, USA and EU studies, determined that incorrect incineration of this type of waste, is the main cause of dioxins and furans emissions to the atmosphere.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends HHCW to be processed preferably on-site (WHO handbook Safe management of waste from health-care activities commonly known as “the Blue Book” (2014) See: page 41 (The “proximity” principle), 45-46 (WHO guidance) and 55 (Option 1 of Step 5)”) which would be at the nearest place and time to where they are generated, and by methods alternative to incineration.
In accordance with the “Principle of Proximity” and main objective of Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-Boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal 8. UNEP, 1992: “The main objectives of the Basel Convention are to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes, treat those wastes as close as possible to where they were generated and reduce trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes”. Signed by most EU members, the Stockholm Convention global treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of POPs valid from 2004, made emphasis in the directive of promoting technologies alternative to incineration for the treatment of HHCW.