6 Million Tons of Waste - 2015
U.S. Hospitals and other medical facilities generated about six million tons of medical waste in 2015, and since then the amount of medical waste has continued to grow at a rate of 7 to 10 percent a year. Not only are Americans aging, but health officials have also broadened the categories of waste that must be thermally disposed of rather than being discarded in landfills where the plastic and the contents of the waste containers can migrate into the environment.
Until now, most medical waste that needed to be thermally destroyed has been trucked to incinerators around the country. Aside from the enormous carbon footprint from all the trucks running across the country carrying the waste, when incinerators burn waste, they have been shown to emit toxic chemicals and a host of other pollutants. Because of environmental concerns, increased regulation, and desire by communities for cleaner living, the number of U.S.-based incineration facilities has fallen dramatically in recent decades. New incineration facilities are unlikely to receive permits in most U.S. states due to existing environmental requirements. The reality is that this 19th century technology is simply incompatible with our modern desire for clean waste disposal.