What happens to medical waste in St. Louis?

Many of us who have been to a doctor or gotten a vaccination might have wondered where the rubber gloves, syringes, and other trash goes when the medical provider is finished with it. The same might be the case with needles and medical gauze at a tattoo parlor. Proper disposal of these items is necessary to prevent the spread of blood-borne pathogens as well as keeping landfills and groundwater safe. At Preferred Waste Concepts, medical waste disposal is our specialty. Keep reading for information about what happens to medical waste to ensure its proper disposal.

What is proper medical waste disposal?

In order to understand what happens to medical waste, it’s important to understand the types of disposal and what they do. The two most common types of disposal involve autoclaving and incineration. Additional methods include chemical treatment, irradiation, and thermal treatment. However, we’ll primarily explore autoclaving and incineration as they’re the most common methods used in the industry.


An autoclave is a machine that’s typically used to sterilize medical equipment between procedures. The combination of steam, heat, and pressure kills bacteria and viruses so that equipment like scissors, tweezers, and anything else can be re-used after a medical procedure.

Autoclaving used as a method of destroying pathogens and microorganisms on objects prior to sending them to a landfill. This helps to prevent contamination and spreading of harmful disease-causing pathogens from a hospital, medical clinic, or tattoo parlor. Hospitals that have an autoclave on-site can perform this step themselves prior to sending waste with a disposal service. If they don’t have an autoclave, a medical waste company like ours can take care of it for them.


Burning medical waste through incineration is a common method as it greatly reduces the volume of medical waste before it’s sent to a landfill. Incineration is a preferred method of disposal because it’s a versatile and effective method for killing disease-causing microorganisms. Items from a hospital that include plastic, cardboard, wood, food waste, paint scrapings, lubrication oil, and much more can be effectively destroyed in an incinerator. The use of an incinerator is approved by the EPA as an effective method for disposing of biohazardous waste.

Other methods

In addition to autoclaving and incineration, chemical treatment and irradiation are effective methods used in specialized cases. Chemical disinfection is a process that is most commonly used to disinfect liquid wastes. Chlorine, iodophors, and formaldehyde are chemicals that are often used as disinfectant agents. Liquids that are treated with chemical disinfectants can then be disposed of properly.

Irradiation is the process of exposing medical waste to gamma rays that are often from a radioactive isotope of cobalt to disinfect an item. The gamma rays will kill all bacteria that are exposed to the radiation in preparation for disposal. This method can be used on equipment that needs to be disposed of as well as pathogenic liquids. However, gamma radiation is harmful and potentially carcinogenic so it’s not a preferred method of waste management.

Contact us for help

If you would like to know more about what happens to medical waste when it’s properly disposed of, please reach out to our team. The team at Preferred Waste Concepts is trained in the proper handling of medical waste and can help to train your company in this as well. Give us a call at 314-413-7500 or send a message via our online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your company with proper medical waste disposal.

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