Where to put your medical waste facility

Siting a treatment and disposal facility is challenging. Many factors come into play, including:

  • Distance from waste producers
  • Proximity to highways and possibly railroads for transport of waste to and from facility
  • Proximity to final disposal sites - which are probably landfills.
  • Population density in area
  • Immediate population adjacent or very close to facility
  • Prevailing wind and groundwater patterns
  • Hydrogeologic profile


NIMBY - “not in my backyard” is a society-wide quandary that plagues waste management. People want the goods and activities that produce waste, but they do not want the waste treated or disposed of near them. When you put the adjective “medical” or “hazardous” or “radioactive” in front of waste, people get even more antsy.

Further if the treatment is an incinerator, imaginations run wild with ideas of bacteria-laden dust settling on their homes.

There are some legitimate objections to siting of medical waste facilities, as they tend to be located more often in low income areas. The concept of environmental justice comes into play. The EPA defines it as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."

This is a worldwide issue, and waste often crosses national boundaries. Indeed, the Basel Convention is about trade and transfer of waste.