Europe’s burning desire for alternatives to medical waste incineration

March 31st, 2011 by Frost and Sullivan

With the global push towards a greener world comes the awareness to decrease carbon emissions. Throughout many parts of Europe the dominant method of medical waste removal continues to be incineration. Although a successful and easy way to cope with medical waste, the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from incineration are leading European countries to search for alternative methods to dispose of this dangerous and hazardous material. In a new overview of the European Medical Waste Management Market, Frost & Sullivan analyzes the market exploring what the current situation is and what the new trends are.

“While incineration remains a dominant waste treatment method due to the infectious nature of waste streams, there is a growing demand for biological and innovative solutions which have in-turn prompted the presence of a growing number of specialists in the market,” says Frost & Sullivan research manager Suchitra Padmanabhan.

In addition, with regional markets such as Germany and the Benelux region approaching maturity, there is a definite shift in focus towards South Europe. At the same time, key challenges of the medical waste management industry make it difficult for several hundred other smaller waste management companies to compete. “The demands of technological development and alternative treatment processes can essentially be best managed by large companies since there is a heavy requirement for financial and R&D investment which makes this viable. There is also a defined market space for specialists in the sector who can offer a technological or service provision edge,” continues Suchitra Padmanabhan.

Companies need to be able to offer non-incineration methods and in doing so successfully possess the ability to manage and disinfect hazardous medical waste. The vast array of resources available to the larger companies suggests that they will inevitably continue to operate as industry leaders in waste management. Large companies can also handle the ever increasing amount of medical waste being produced. An ageing population across Europe has led to more full hospital beds and a shift in the nature of healthcare to home-based care thereby supporting a growing medical waste management market. Consequently more medical waste will be produced than ever before and there will be a greater need to carefully dispose it.

In an attempt to combat medical waste scientists have developed a way to pre-treat waste with disinfectants. This process doesn’t eliminate all of the germs, but it is a step in the right direction towards finding alternative methods of dealing with medical waste.

Although it is unlikely incineration will discontinue throughout the rest of Europe right away due to the high demand of medical waste disposal, it is more likely that changes will be made to incineration techniques making it less harmful and more effective. Research will continue with the hope to find non-incineration methods to manage medical waste that may soon replace incineration completely.


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