Stericycle driver holding biohazard box
Photo courtesy of Stericycle

Stericycle ceases operations at Utah incinerator following fines, community backlash

The company will continue to own and operate the site as a collection and transportation facility.

Stericycle has ended its waste operations at a North Salt Lake, Utah, facility following a “tumultuous” history with surrounding neighbors, the state Division of Air Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports Deseret News.

The Bannockburn, Illinois-based company incinerates medical waste, which includes pathological streams, trace chemotherapy and nonhazardous pharmaceutical waste from clients such as hospitals and nursing homes.

According to an advocacy group made up of 400 medical professionals in Utah, the incineration of medical waste “can increase rates of serious diseases, like cancer, endocrine and immune disorders, infertility and birth defects” for people living as far as 4 miles away from the pollution source.

Tensions grew among nearby residents of the facility after a 2013 video of a Stericycle bypass event surfaced (an event when emissions are released to protect equipment inside the facility), which led to prompt community mobilization and protests calling for the company to cease operations.

In the aftermath of the video being released, state air quality regulators said they were able to document instances where the incinerator allegedly exceeded its emission limits and rigged stack tests in violation of its state permit, prompting a $2.3 million fine by the Utah Vision of Air Quality.

Eight years later in 2021, Waste Today reported that the EPA also reached a settlement with Stericycle over violated pollution laws, ordering the company to pay a $600,000 civil penalty. The company also was required to conduct a “supplemental environmental project,” which was completed through a $2 million donation to a local school district in Utah for the purchase of low-emitting school buses. 

Although Stericycle has halted its incineration operations, the company will still be active at the facility.

In a statement to Waste Today, the company says, “Stericycle proudly remains part of the North Salt Lake community. While we ceased operation of our hospital, medical and infectious waste incinerator services on June 30 at this location, we continue to own and operate the site as a collection and transportation facility to service health care customers throughout the greater Salt Lake region.” 

Stericycle adds, “This change to our operations has been planned for several years. As demand for medical waste management in the United States continues to increase, driven largely by growing health care needs, Stericycle has sought relocation to account for the infrastructure needed to expand our capacity. We look forward to continuing to help the healthcare industry address complex medical waste disposal challenges in a safe and responsible manner, both in the North Salt Lake community and across all communities where we operate.”