Medical Waste Industry Insights

What Is Cradle-to-Grave Waste Tracking?

By David Ryan

In a prior post on Medical Waste 101, we discussed the importance of working with reputable waste management companies. This is especially true throughout the cradle-to-grave process.

The most important part of the medical waste management process is that your medical waste is packaged, shipped, and properly disposed of. And while this requires a sequence that involves a few different parties, ultimately, it’s your medical waste company who’s responsible. The way any professional management company approaches this is through what’s known as “cradle-to-grave tracking,” which is essentially a means of tracking waste through a manifest paper trail or digital tracking.  


Whose involved in cradle-to-grave waste disposal process?

1: Waste Generators

Cradle-to-grave tracking starts when the waste generator, such as healthcare and veterinary facilities, signs a release; thereby initiating the Chain of Custody for those waste materials.

2: Waste Transporters

From there, the transporter accepts the waste and the journey begins. All medical waste must be transported by trained professionals to ensure safe handling. While the majority of states have transporter permit requirements, not all do, so it is important to verify state transporter permit IDs. These will be listed on the manifest documents as well.

TIP: Regulatory requirements for waste generators vary by state and may be more stringent than those in the federal program. Check your state's policies here.


In some areas of the country, proper destruction facilities are not readily available, and as such, many transporters may consolidate waste to larger trucks to make destruction more cost-effective, referred to as secondary transporter or transfer facility. Both large national waste companies and small local companies utilize these kinds of facilities to consolidate waste, which is then reflected on your tracking form or manifest.

3: Disposal Facilities

Finally, the waste arrives at the treatment or destruction site. Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) provide temporary storage and final treatment or disposal for hazardous wastes.

Typically, one of the following disposal methods will be utilized. We take a deep dive on those various disposal methods in our related blog, Which Medical Waste Treatment Technology is Best? The Pros and Cons of Each - but here’s a quick overview:

  • High heat autoclave, whereby waste is put into a very large pressure chamber and steam injection is used to bring the waste to the appropriate temperature.
  • Waste-to-energy incinerator, whereby all waste is processed via incineration (in other words, burned at high temperatures) as a viable zero landfill initiative.
  • Plasma gasification. Similar to an incinerator, the gasifier utilizes an arc torch (similar to welding) to gasify waste.
  • Chemical digester, whereby chemical or biological reactions are carried out in a large vessel.
How Long Does The Cradle-to-Grave Process Take?

This may vary by state. Most states require that the cradle-to-grave process happens in less than 35 days from the time of pick-up.

Choose Your Provider Wisely

It is the waste generator’s responsibility to ensure that the waste is properly treated or destroyed, and that the manifest process is closed out and signed off in a timely manner. Here again, the importance of working with a reputable waste management company cannot be overstated. Entrusting these services to a professional and responsible partner who understands your state’s regulatory restrictions is critical because, ultimately, it is your company’s reputation on the line.

United Medical Waste Management helps you ensure all appropriate measures are being taken, and affords you peace of mind throughout the cradle-to-grave process. Contact us at any time if you would like to discuss service options.


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