Disposal refers to the long-term placement of waste or treated waste. It is almost always off-site - away from where the waste is generated - and usually involves burial underground. We do not classify putting waste in storage containers on site as a form of disposal.

Sanitary landfills

Sanitary landfills are a staple of the waste disposal system in the United States and many countries. The idea is that the waste will stay in the landfill and hence not harm the environment until it has degraded to a sufficient level that it is safe. The engineering of these landfills is pretty well worked out now. A plastic liner or liners underlies the waste. Waste is deposited in layers and soil from the local area is put on top of the waste. Then another layer of waste goes on top of the soil and another layer of soil on top of that. Different landfill designs employ different numbers of layers. The shape of the deposit discourages waste and leachate from migrating away from the landfill. The plastic liner and configuration of the layers provides "hydrogeological isolation," so leachate (water that has flowed through the waste) does not enter the aquifer and general groundwater in the area.

Most sanitary landfills also have on-site staff, vertical vents to prevent build-up off off-gas, and monitoring of air emissions. We have another page on landfills for disposal of medical waste.

Recycling medical waste into compost or fertilizer

conpost synbolMunicipalities across the country have embraced recycling programs and some even have city-run composting services, which pick up compostable material from residences. Regulated medical waste (e.g. infectious or biohazardous waste) is not recycled or composted and there is no movement to start doing so. This type of waste is a small fraction of society’s overall waste stream and the protocols needed to ensure safety have not been developed and probably will not be developed. There is little economic reason to recycle or compost biohazardous waste.

However, the carcasses of dead animals are often disposed of alkaline hydrolysis, and the result of that process can be used as fertilizer,

Also, large facilities like hospitals can and do institute compost collection programs for non-hazardous, non-regulated waste, such as waste from kitchens.

Procedures for disposing of dead animals.

Treatment of Pharmaceutical Waste