Waste audits in healthcare: A systematic review and description of best practices

Jonathan E. Slutzman, Hannah Bockius, Ilyssa O. Gordon, Hannah C. Greene, Sarah Hsu, Yiming Huang, Michelle H. Lam, Timothy Roberts, Cassandra L. Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Healthcare generates large amounts of waste, harming both environmental and human health. Waste audits are the standard method for measuring and characterizing waste. This is a systematic review of healthcare waste audits, describing their methods and informing more standardized auditing and reporting. Using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, we searched MEDLINE, Embase, Inspec, Scopus and Web of Science Core Collection databases for published studies involving direct measurement of waste in medical facilities. We screened 2398 studies, identifying 156 studies for inclusion from 37 countries. Most were conducted to improve local waste sorting policies or practices, with fewer to inform policy development, increase waste diversion or reduce costs. Measurement was quantified mostly by weighing waste, with many also counting items or using interviews or surveys to compile data. Studies spanned single procedures, departments and hospitals, and multiple hospitals or health systems. Waste categories varied, with most including municipal solid waste or biohazardous waste, and others including sharps, recycling and other wastes. There were significant differences in methods and results between high- and low-income countries. The number of healthcare waste audits published has been increasing, with variable quality and general methodologic inconsistency. A greater emphasis on consistent performance and reporting standards would improve the quality, comparability and usefulness of healthcare waste audits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalWaste Management and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Healthcare waste
  • environmentally responsible healthcare
  • waste audit
  • waste auditing methods
  • waste auditing protocols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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