Author(s): Jang YC, Lee C, Yoon OS, Kim H
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Abstract The management of medical waste is of great importance due to its potential environmental hazards and public health risks. In the past medical waste was often mixed with municipal solid waste and disposed of in residential waste landfills or improper treatment facilities (e.g. inadequately controlled incinerators) in Korea. In recent years, many efforts have been made by environmental regulatory agencies and waste generators to better manage the waste from healthcare facilities. This paper presents an overview of the current management practices of medical waste in Korea. Information regarding generation, composition, segregation, transportation, and disposal of medical wastes is provided and discussed. Medical waste incineration is identified as the most preferred disposal method and will be the only available treatment option in late 2005. Faced with increased regulations over toxic air emissions (e.g. dioxins and furans), all existing small incineration facilities that do not have air pollution control devices will cease operation in the next few years. Large-scale medical waste incinerators would be responsible for the treatment of medical waste generated by most healthcare facilities in Korea. It is important to point out that there is a great potential to emit air toxic pollutants from such incinerators if improperly operated and managed, because medical waste typically contains a variety of plastic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Waste minimization and recycling, control of toxic air emissions at medical waste incinerators, and alternative treatment methods to incineration are regarded to be the major challenges in the future.
This article was published in J Environ Manage
and referenced in International Journal of Waste Resources