Medical waste management is a healthy industry in Malaysia, with an outlook for strong growth over the coming years, a recent Frost & Sullivan report has revealed. In 2009 the sector took some $200 million in revenue, while managing, processing and disposing of close to 16,000 tonnes of discarded medical devices, equipment and bio-waste.
Often perceived as a low growth industry, the Malaysian medial waste management sector is based on the 'cradle-to-grave' concept, where the country's three hospital waste concessionaires assume most of the responsibilities for every step in the life cycle of medical waste. This includes collection, transport and disposal, as well as the supply of consumables. Responsibility for the initial segregation and storage of the waste falls to the health care providers.
Malaysia's 27 million inhabitants are growing slowly older, and wealthier. It is estimated that by the year 2035 Malaysia will become an 'old' nation with 10% of the total population being over 65 years of age, and that by 2020 average incomes will have risen from $7600 to $15,000 per year. Inevitably this has led to an increase in lifestyle associated diseases which are often debilitating, require substantial healthcare, and which ultimately, produce waste.
The number of foreigners seeking medical treatment in Malaysia has risen from 103,000 in 2003 to 420,000 by 2009. Since 2007 Malaysia is ranked one of the world's top five medical tourism destinations by the Deloitte Medical Tourism Report. This bodes well for the Malaysian medial waste management industry.
The rise in the number of infectious outbreaks has also contributed to the higher consumption of healthcare services, and has generated more waste through the use of disposable hygiene items.
Frost and Sullivan have estimated that the total quantity of hospital waste produced in Malaysia could reach 33,000 tonnes per year by 2020, based on a recent survey. This is more than double the current 16,000 tonnes per year, and considerably greater than the 18,000 tonne per year capacity of the current incinerator infrastructure.
In addition to the opportunities presented by the need for additional incinerator capacity, the report suggests that there is also scope to improve the process of waste management from hospital to incinerator. Innovative products that decrease waste handling risk factors, waste compacting technologies and automated waste delivery systems are expected to be widely adopted by Malaysian hospitals.