M.S. Thesis: Incineration, Waste-to-energy and Catalytic Gasification: the Past, Present and Future of Medical Waste Management

By Kimberly Llewellyn

Advisor: Prof. Marco Castaldi

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

May 2006

Waste disposal poses a problem which is increasingly difficult to ignore. While the increasing volumes of generated waste are a problem, the types of waste being generated further complicate the challenge of disposal. Medical waste produced by hospitals and medical facilities falls into this category and amounts to a significant volume of waste requiring special handling. The issue of medical waste treatment and disposal is gaining the attention of organizations, including the World Health Organization, worldwide. While incineration remains the most common method for treatment of medical waste, the high environmental impacts associated with incinerators produce a need for viable alternatives. Waste-to-energy is an obvious replacement for medical waste incinerators whose numbers are likely to decline due to more stringent emission standards. The high plastic content of medical waste is looked at as a potential feedstock for a novel catalytic gasification reactor. With the number of operational incinerators on the decline, waste-to-energy offering a functioning alternative and innovative possibilities awaiting further investigation incineration, waste-to-energy and catalytic gasification could be considered the past, present and future of medical waste management.

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