Authors: Raila EM, Anderson DO
Waste Manag Res. 2017 Apr;35(4):416-425
Climate change remains one of the biggest threats to life on earth to date with black carbon (BC) emissions or smoke being the strongest cause after carbon dioxide (CO2). Surprisingly, scientific evidence about black carbon emissions reduction in healthcare settings is sparse. This paper presents new research findings on the reduction of black carbon emissions from an observational study conducted at the UN Peacekeeping Operations (MINUSTAH) in Haiti in 2014. Researchers observed 20 incineration cycles, 30 minutes for each cycle of plastic and cardboard sharps healthcare waste (HCW) containers ranged from 3 to 14.6 kg. The primary aim was to determine if black carbon emissions from healthcare waste incineration can be lowered by mainstreaming the use of cardboard sharps healthcare waste containers instead of plastic sharps healthcare waste containers. Similarly, the study looks into whether burning temperature was associated with the smoke levels for each case or not. Independent samples t-tests demonstrated significantly lower black carbon emissions during the incineration of cardboard sharps containers (6.81 Â± 4.79% smoke) than in plastic containers (17.77 Â± 8.38% smoke); a statistically significant increase of 10.96% smoke (95% Confidence Interval ( CI) [4.4 to 17.5% smoke], p = 0.003). Correspondingly, lower bottom burner temperatures occurred during the incineration of cardboard sharps containers than in plastic (95% Cl [16 to 126Â°C], p = 0.014). Finally, we expect the application of the new quantitative evidence to form the basis for policy formulation, mainstream the use of cardboard sharps containers and opt for non-incineration disposal technologies as urgent steps for going green in healthcare waste management.