Medical waste is an unpleasant mix of blood-soaked bandages, surgical gloves, instruments, needles (sharps) and even body parts. Disposal of this waste is an environmental concern; a lot of it is classified as infectious or biohazardous and if disposed of in the wrong manner could lead to the spread of infectious disease.
Developed countries face challenges with the sheer volume of medical waste.
It’s the third largest source of waste in the United States, with hospitals discarding more than two million tons of waste each year.
Developed nations have laws and facilities that enable them to dispose of this waste in a safe manner. But developing countries often have neither, and the unsafe disposal of waste is a real problem. Waste may be dumped indiscriminately on public dumps, putting lives at risk because people often scavenge for goods on them. The lack of sanitary landfills has lead to the increased used of incinerators, which can lead to health problems, especially if they don’t operate at the correct temperatures. There are more than 1000 incinerators in Africa, many of which operate below standards. But the health risks from environmental exposure have to be weighed against the risks from indiscriminate dumping. A burial pit or small incinerator might not be the best solution, but it’s better than uncontrolled dumping. 
Progress is being made however. In the face of the ever-growing mountain of waste, hospital administrators have started to look at how processes within clinics can be improved in order to reduce waste. Administrators acknowledge that the first place to start is by attempting to minimize or eliminate the generation of waste.
Many surgical items are single-use, but hospitals are starting to look into recycling some of this equipment. Some single-use items can be sterilized and used again. Since 2000, the FDA has required that these items meet the same standards as the original.
Once produced, it’s important to separate different types of waste. Infectious waste, hazardous waste and low-level radioactive waste must be treated with costly disposal technologies; if material (which might otherwise be recovered or re-used) is mixed with this, all the waste must be treated as potentially infectious. Hospitals can implement fairly simple programs that separate these materials, lowering disposal costs.
Novel techniques are being used to dispose of medical waste in developing countries. Field trials in India have shown that solar cookers, which produce temperatures of between 100 and 150 degrees centigrade, can be used to destroy bacteria on cotton wool swabs. These solar heating systems could provide a cheap method treat infectious waste in less economically developed countries.