A continuously expanding healthcare industry, rising numbers of diagnostic tests, and flourishing medical devices and pharmaceutical industries have significantly contributed towards the exponentially rising medical waste volumes in the U.S. The U.S. medical waste is highly regulated by strict emission, disposal, and recycling norms. It has witnessed excellent expansion in the past few years, and technological developments, emergence of advanced and innovative disposal techniques, and sustained efforts by government and non-government bodies aimed at ensuring public safety from hazardous medical waste at a sustained pace.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has collected over 2,100 tons of prescription medicines as of September 2010 across the country, reports show. Apart from being one of the largest producers of medical waste across the globe, the U.S. also has one of the most efficient medical waste management markets of the globe. Government bodies, several NGOs, and community-based organizations are constantly guiding healthcare facilities about devising proper ways of effective recycling and disposal of medical wastes in the country.
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A large portion of the overall medical waste generated in the U.S. is of the non-infectious variety. In 2014, non-infectious waste accounted for a dominant share of around 63% in the U.S. waste management market. In the same year, infectious waste accounted for the second-largest, 22.6%, share of the market, TMR says.
The rising number of diagnostic tests in the country is the prime reason behind the generation of vast volumes of infectious wastes from pathological labs in the country. Rising geriatric population and the relatively larger possibility of this demographic contracting serious illnesses provides a big boost to the demand for medical services and diagnostic tests, which are major contributors to the rising volumes of medical wastes.
Incineration of medical wastes has traditionally been the dominant medical waste management method in the U.S. However, incineration leads to the emission of several harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and dioxins, which contribute to global warming. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has made air emission limits more stringent in the country, compelling waste management companies to switch cleaner ways of handling medical waste.
This has led to the increased adoption of non-incineration technologies such as steam autoclave treatment, non-ionization radiation treatment, a variety of chemical treatments in the past few years. Non-incineration technologies are also gaining increased popularity owing to their less capital intensive nature and the possibility of turning waste into resource efficient materials using these techniques.
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The U.S. market for medical waste management features the presence of a large number of small-sized local vendors and only a few large companies. In 2014, small-sized companies in the market accounted for a massive share of 53.1% in the market, while Stericycle, the most prominent large-scale company in the market held a share of 23.2%.
Mergers with and acquisitions of smaller companies are thus the most beneficial growth opportunities for new entrants and existing vendors in the market. Acquisition of smaller companies allows large-sized vendors in enhancing their operational efficiencies and expanding their service capabilities and consumer base in the U.S. medical waste management market.
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