Medical Incinerator Shut Down

Stericycle, the largest medical waste treatment company in the US, has closed its medical waste incinerator on the Gila River Indian Reservation, in Arizona, in the wake of protests over health threats. Arizona, Utah, and California are now medical incinerator-free.
The November closure followed protests by the Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment, who demanded that US EPA hold hearings on the incinerator.
The EPA ranks medical waste incinerators as the second highest source of mercury emissions and a leading source of dioxin, a known carcinogen.
Less than a year earlier, Stericycle had closed a similar incinerator at Oakland’s Integrated Environmental Systems (IES) following a lengthy protest campaign. But Stericycle continued to send IES clients’ waste to its incinerator in Salt Lake City, said Stericycle Chief Operating Officer Rich Kogler.
The pattern will now be repeated with the Gila River closure.
Stericycle will refrain from burning waste on the Gila River reservation, instead shredding and sterilizing it in autoclaves on the reservation for deposit in a landfill elsewhere. “We view this as a win-win situation,” said Kogler.
But Kogler said the agreement would only apply to “the majority of the waste” and that “whatever is left will be sent to Utah” for incineration.
San Francisco-based Greenaction — together with a Salt Lake City-based coalition — is now focusing its campaign on closing the north Salt Lake City incinerator. “By taking regional responsibility for waste, we’re changing the way it’s dealt with,” Greenaction’s Bradley Angel said. “We don’t want to see these victories result in more waste being shipped out of state for incineration.”

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