Comparison of incineration and autoclave methods in the treatment of medical wastes through life cycle assessment: A case study for Istanbul

Kılıc O., Kuzu S. L.

Environmental Research and Technology, vol.4, no.2, pp.157-164, 2021 (Scopus) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 4 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.35208/ert.913039
  • Journal Name: Environmental Research and Technology
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.157-164
  • Keywords: autoclave, incineration, life cycle assessment, Medical waste, OpenLCA
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: No


Medical waste management has always been an important topic due to its infectious status. Recently, more care has been given to it due to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world. Several methods are applied to handle medical wastes. Incineration and sterilization with autoclave are among the most common medical waste treatment methods. Among all methods, incineration serves the ultimate method of waste destruction since the waste is exposed to high temperatures (~800 °C) for about 2 hours. Because of the pandemic or some other reasons, administrations may want to shift their technology to incineration from autoclave. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to prepare a comparison of both technologies in terms of life cycle perspective. We used OpenLCA for calculations. Two different calculations were conducted. In the first one, the actual treatment methods and the waste amount were used. In the second one, a scenario was formed that included the treatment of the whole medical waste of Istanbul by only incineration process. The results indicated a higher mid-category life cycle impact for the combustion method. The highest contribution was for human toxicity with 3.8e4 kg 1, 4-DB eq and 1.7e5 kg 1, 4-DB eq for the current operation and scenario, respectively. The environmental impact of the sterilization process remained negligible relative to the combustion process.