Engineering Data for Medical Waste


Composition of MSW at Bulk Densities of Medical Waste Components

Waste Density, kg/m3 Density, lb/ft3
Human anatomical 800–1200 49 - 75
Plastics 80–2300 5 - 144
Swabs, absorbents 80–1000 5 - 62
Alcohol, disinfectants 800–1000 50 - 62
Paper/cardboard 65 4
Glass 2800–3600 175 - 225

Bulk Densities of Medical Waste Components

Waste Density, kg/m3 Density, lb/ft3
Human anatomical 800–1200 49 - 75
Plastics 80–2300 5 - 144
Swabs, absorbents 80–1000 5 - 62
Alcohol, disinfectants 800–1000 50 - 62
Paper/cardboard 65 4
Glass 2800–3600 175 - 225
Textiles 120 8
Food waste 600 47
Yard waste 125 8
Sharps 400 25

Heating Value of Medical Waste Components

These values are important in incineration and pyrolysis. If your waste is wet, you need extra fuel and air compared to when you have dry waste. The combustion value of the waste (inherent physical characteristic) is an important design parameter. The rule of thumb is that the heating value should be at least 4000 BTU/lb, but really lower heating value materials are OK, so long as you are willing to spend the fuel to get to the target temperature. There is a difference between the Lower Heating Value of a material, which is also called the Net Calorific Value, and the Higher Heating Value. The Lower Heating Value is the actual heating value with the moisture inside in. The Higher Heating Value is what the material’s heating value would be if it were dry. The EPA reports that MSW in the US has an average LWV of about 5000 BTU/lb.
Waste Heat of Combusion, kcal/kg Heat of Combusion, BTU/lb
Human anatomical 400 – 2000 720 - 3600
Plastics 7700 – 11000 13800 - 19800
Swabs, absorbents 3100 – 6700 5600 - 12000
Alcohol, disinfectant 6100 – 7800 11000 - 14000
Glass 0 0
Bedding 2200–4500 4000 - 8100
Sharps 0 0
Gauze, pads, swabs, garments, 3100–6700 5600 - 12100