To incinerate hazardous waste properly requires an efficient means of controlling the temperature, and a secondary burning chamber. Many incinerators, especially those with a single combustion chamber, are unsatisfactory for dealing with infectious materials or plastics. If this type is used, such materials may not be completely destroyed, and the effluent from the chimney may pollute the atmosphere with microorganisms, toxic chemicals and smoke. However, there are many satisfactory configurations for combustion chambers. Ideally the temperature in the primary chamber should be at least 800°C, and in the secondary chamber at least 1000°C. In order to achieve the required temperatures, the incinerators must be properly designed, operated and maintained.
Materials for incineration, even if they have been decontaminated, should be transported to the incinerator in bags, preferably plastic. Attendants should receive proper instruction in loading the incinerator and controlling the temperature. The efficient operation of an incinerator depends on having the right mix of materials in the waste being incinerated.
There are concerns about the possible negative environmental effects of incinerators, and efforts continue to make incinerators more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Autoclaves provide an alternative to incineration.