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Medical waste: a multi-billion recycling niche

The global medical waste management market was valued at EUR 14 billion (US$ 16 billion) last year. ‘The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has only increased the importance of proper medical waste disposal with market players stretching for gains,’ according to market analysts at Fact.MR.

The medical waste management market is anticipated to reach EUR 19.5 billion (US$ 22 billion) by the end of 2025. This represents a ‘modest trajectory’ with growth pegged at 5.1%. North America is poised to dominate the medical waste management market with a 37% market share.

Overall, the medical waste management market is described as ‘highly fragmented’, with several domestic as well as global players operating in different service segments. Analysts note that the degree of competition amongst market players ranges from moderate to high.

Healthcare waste can be largely divided into hazardous and non-hazardous materials. Autoclaves, chemical treatment, microwave irradiation, and incineration are some of the most commonly used treatments for medical waste.

Touched by the corona virus

Medical waste generated by COVID-19 cases includes a vast array of materials including bandages, infectious swabs, cotton wool buds, masks, gloves, linen, scalpels, needles, blades and even blood. ‘In some cases, even utensils used for eating are treated as hazardous waste,’ analysts underline.

Owing to the high contagiousness of the virus, the process for handling and disposing such medical waste has to be covered by strict environmental, transport, and health laws. Medical waste management service providers have to be trained and well equipped to manage operations of treatment, collection, and disposal of coronavirus medical waste as required. Practices such as double layered bags, colour coded dustbins, and mandatory labelling are hailed as vital during the crisis.

‘It is important to note that medical facilities such as hospitals are not the only entities responsible for managing such waste,’ analysts remark. Malls, hotels, gyms, stadiums, and ports of entry also have to ramp up efforts to care for their customers to keep the public safe. ‘These trends will bolster demand in the medical waste management market.’

Best practices

‘Numerous items used in medical facilities are recyclable,’ it is urged. A positive development is that healthcare facilities are increasingly likely to set up dedicated recycling plans as a part of their waste management plans. Education of healthcare staff about items that can be recycled is key along with signage and strategic placement of all recycling containers throughout the facility.

‘The installation of recycling infrastructure near the point of waste generation will help in the creation of best practices-based recycling programmes,’ analysts agree. They observe that over 30% of the average medical waste is the plastic packaging, including the container itself. ‘This is a major problem as single-use containers have been the norm across the industry.’ This not only incurs a heavy cost of purchasing the container, but also the cost of disposing the container. ‘Single-use containers have an adverse impact financially and environmentally,’ Fact.MR concludes.

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