Waste management (New York, N.Y.)

Applications of life cycle assessment and cost analysis in health care waste management.

PMID 23122202


The establishment of rules to manage Health Care Waste (HCW) is a challenge for the public sector. Regulatory agencies must ensure the safety of waste management alternatives for two very different profiles of generators: (1) hospitals, which concentrate the production of HCW and (2) small establishments, such as clinics, pharmacies and other sources, that generate dispersed quantities of HCW and are scattered throughout the city. To assist in developing sector regulations for the small generators, we evaluated three management scenarios using decision-making tools. They consisted of a disinfection technique (microwave, autoclave and lime) followed by landfilling, where transportation was also included. The microwave, autoclave and lime techniques were tested at the laboratory to establish the operating parameters to ensure their efficiency in disinfection. Using a life cycle assessment (LCA) and cost analysis, the decision-making tools aimed to determine the technique with the best environmental performance. This consisted of evaluating the eco-efficiency of each scenario. Based on the life cycle assessment, microwaving had the lowest environmental impact (12.64 Pt) followed by autoclaving (48.46 Pt). The cost analyses indicated values of US$0.12 kg(-1) for the waste treated with microwaves, US$1.10 kg(-1) for the waste treated by the autoclave and US$1.53 kg(-1) for the waste treated with lime. The microwave disinfection presented the best eco-efficiency performance among those studied and provided a feasible alternative to subsidize the formulation of the policy for small generators of HCW.