Since the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals in Wuhan, China have generated six times more medical waste to nearly 270 tons per day at the peak of the pandemic. The Chinese government repurposed hazardous waste facilities to treat medical waste and sent mobile incinerators to Wuhan to help the city of 11 million people dispose of used face masks, gloves and other contaminated single-use protective gear. The United States hasn't experienced the same struggle to discard of coronavirus-related waste; at least not yet. The U.S. is facing a severe shortage of face masks for health care workers, meaning there is less protective gear entering the medical waste stream. U.S. medical waste facilities also have a higher capacity for handling an uptick in volume should it arrive. China depends on a network of aging incinerators built more than 15 years ago. The United States, meanwhile, has transitioned to a robust system of autoclaves, machines that decontaminate medical waste with steam.
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