Our Processes

Stericycle is dedicated to finding sustainable, environmentally friendly and compliant recovery options for all the waste we handle.

Responsible management of waste streams

Every day, our teams safely remove massive quantities of regulated waste from the public.

In 2021 we treated 1.5 billion tonnes of medical waste worldwide*

    No single treatment option is optimal for all waste streams because of very different risk profiles and regulations. 

    While we recycle whenever possible, medical and hazardous wastes require special treatment because of the high potential for viruses, chemicals and other contaminants harmful to people and the environment.

    *Source: ‘Stericycle global data, 2022’ 

    All collected waste is rendered safe in our treatment and disposal facilities

      To render waste safe, treatment and disposal facilities are required to:

      • Reduce the number of infectious organisms present in the waste to a level that protects workers or the public against infection
      • Destroy anatomical waste so it is no longer recognisable
      • Make all clinical waste (including any equipment and sharps) unusable and unrecognisable as clinical waste
      • Destroy the component chemicals of chemical or medicinal and medicinally-contaminated waste.

      We own and manage our own facilities where specialist waste is treated and disposed of by one of two main methods:

        • Energy from Waste (Incineration)
        • Alternative Treatment.

        Energy from Waste (Incineration) - all Stericycle incinerators are EfW facilities

          1. Waste is tipped directly from the cart into the incinerator and burned at a minimum temperature of 850 or 1000 degrees, depending on waste types. This process produces incinerator residues of bottom ash and lime of approximately 10% of the original volume of waste.
          2. The resulting bottom ash and waste lime are classed as recycled materials and are collected from our facilities by approved contractors for reuse. 
          3. The steam and heat produced by the process is used to power the Bio Systems wash-line.

          Alternative Treatment (AT) - the heating of waste to disinfect it, as an alternative to incineration

            • Waste is inspected and any waste inappropriate for Alternative Treatment is removed.  
            • The waste is tipped into an enclosed tipper which sends it to the shredder unit via a bin lift. 
            • The shredded waste is moved through a Heat Disinfection Unit (HDU) that uses oil heated to 140 degrees - this disinfects the waste. 
            • Once cool, the shredded disinfected waste is compacted, baled and used as an alternative fuel source/solid recovered fuel (SRF).

            The process for collecting and replacing Bio Systems containers

              1. Full containers are collected at scheduled intervals and transported to the Stericycle wash-line for disinfection.
              2. These are weighed, scanned and tracked at our treatment facility. Our robotic system performs a fully automated three-stage disinfection process.
              3. Containers are quality checked and re-assembled. Empty containers are transported back to the customer in a ready-to-use condition.
              4. Steam produced by our Energy from Waste incinerator is used to power the Bio Systems wash-line. This creates a self-contained, self-sufficient and sustainable service.

              We protect what matters

              Learn more about our processes

              You can find flowcharts on each waste treatment process in our Support & Resources section.