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Advances in healthcare are increasing by the day – new technologies, treatments and medicines are discovered regularly. In turn, healthcare systems worldwide develop new ways of tracking and storing medical waste to remain compliant with this progress. But what changes will we see in the coming decades? Let’s explore three key trends shaping 2030’s medical waste management.

Hypergrowth Healthcare Sectors: Medical Devices & Pharmaceuticals

A few factors are driving the increased medical waste in recent years. First, the healthcare sector is growing at an unprecedented rate. More and more people are seeking medical care, whether it be for preventative measures or for treating existing conditions. This results in more medical procedures being performed, and more waste being produced as a result.

In the United States alone, it’s estimated that medical waste will grow by 3.5% every year through 2030. That’s a lot of needlesticks, bandages, and single-use gloves! So what’s driving this growth?

According to Grand View Research, The global disposable surgical devices market is booming, valued at just over $5 billion in 2020. This growth will continue to rise at a 7.8% CAGR from 2021 through 2028. The rising prevalence of chronic diseases such as neurological, cardiovascular, infectious and urological disorders will fuel the demand. Diseases such as diabetes and cancer are on the rise as well, and this too creates a need for surgeons in every corner of the world.

Additionally, progress in MedTech has led to the development of new and more complex devices. These devices often come with disposable parts that are used during a single procedure and then discarded. This contributes to the increasing volume of medical waste.

Thirdly, there is a growing trend of patients undergoing multiple procedures. This is due in part to the fact that people are living longer and thus have more time to accumulate health problems. But it also reflects that many procedures are now less invasive than they used to be, making it possible to treat multiple conditions at once. This means that more waste is produced per patient.

Finally, the pharmaceutical industry is growing at a rapid pace. More prescriptions are being filled and more people have access to medication. This means that there will be more medical waste, such as unused or expired medications.

More Diagnoses Lead to Increased Medical Waste Outputs

As more and more diseases are diagnosed, the amount of medical waste being produced is increasing. With more diagnoses comes more treatments and more procedures, all of which generate medical waste. This increase in medical waste is not just due to an increase in the number of diagnoses. It is also because many of these diseases are chronic and require ongoing treatment. This means that the medical waste associated with these diseases is not just a one-time event, but rather something that needs to be managed on an ongoing basis.

If handled incorrectly, the treatment and disposal of medical waste can pose health risks indirectly by releasing pathogens and toxic chemicals into the environment. Disposing of untreated medical waste in landfills can lead to water contamination if those landfills are not constructed properly. The treatment of medical wastes with chemical disinfectants can result in the release of hazardous substances into the environment if those substances are not handled, stored, and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

There are several ways to manage medical waste. One way is to incinerate it. This process kills any bacteria or viruses that may be present in the waste, making it safe to dispose of. However, incineration also produces emissions that can be harmful to the environment.

Another way to manage medical waste is by sterilising it. This process kills all bacteria and viruses present in the waste, making it safe to dispose of. Sterilisation does not produce any emissions, making it a more environmentally-friendly option than incineration.

Emerging Markets Leapfrogging Innovations

As developing countries rapidly urbanise and their economies grow, they are “leapfrogging” traditional development stages and adopting innovative technologies to meet the needs of their citizens. This is especially true in the area of healthcare, where new medical technologies can be quickly adapted to address pressing health concerns.

In many cases, developing countries are able to skip over outdated and expensive infrastructure projects, such as building extensive road networks, and instead adopt newer technologies that are more efficient and cost-effective. For example, instead of investing in a landline telephone network, many developing countries have gone straight to mobile phones. The same is true for medical waste management.


Bypassing Tradition

Emerging markets are starting to adopt innovative medical waste solutions that bypass traditional infrastructure.

Rapid Digitalisation

This is due to several factors, including the rise of digital health solutions and the increasing cost of traditional medical waste management methods.

Onsite Waste Treatment

As a result, we are seeing a trend towards onsite medical waste management solutions and the use of innovative technology to track and manage medical waste.

Reduced Risks

This is benefiting both patients and healthcare providers, as it reduces the risk of cross-contamination and makes it easier to comply with regulations.

Compounded Effects

In the future, we expect to see even more innovation in this area, as emerging markets continue to lead the way in terms of adopting new technologies.

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