Solid Waste & Recycling

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Sharps

The treatment and disposal of used healthcare materials and medical waste is a major environmental concern. If sent to landfills, such waste could worsen leaching problems and further strain capacity. Yet the generation of medical waste creates...


The treatment and disposal of used healthcare materials and medical waste is a major environmental concern. If sent to landfills, such waste could worsen leaching problems and further strain capacity. Yet the generation of medical waste creates staggering amounts of material — in the United States for instance some three billion syringes per year are generated from approximately nine million people who self-inject outside the hospital and large healthcare settings to control diabetes, allergies and other health problems — that must be properly disposed of to avoid the possible risk of infectious disease. It’s a Catch-22 for which there have been few good answers, until now.

Sharps Compliance Corp. has introduced a new waste conversion process that deals with medical waste in an environmentally responsible way. This patent-pending green process cuts the volume of medical waste going into landfills by up to 100 percent. It transforms discarded needles, syringes, lancets and other medical waste into a new product called PELLA-DRX™ — clean, compact pellets that are a raw material used in the manufacture of industrial resources, vital to everything from homes to highways and high-rise buildings. PELLA-DRX is ideally suited for energy intensive industries such as cement, lime, steel and power plants.

None of the medical waste processed into this product goes to a landfill. Instead, it’s repurposed into a raw material that becomes part of a new product. This innovative conversion approach turns medical waste into a sustainable resource. The key is that PELLA-DRX is not just a product; it is part of a comprehensive, three-step processing system:

• Sharps receives medical waste via the proprietary Sharps® Recovery System™. The system consists of government-approved containers in various sizes and return packaging with pre-paid postage. These packages of medical waste are sent via the U.S. Postal Service to a treatment facility.

• All medical waste received is treated through an autoclave process which utilizes extremely high pressure and temperature to destroy any disease pathogens. The autoclave process is much like the system that hospitals use to disinfect surgical instruments, and it destroys all disease pathogens in the medical waste. The entire process is strictly regulated to ensure that it is thorough and eliminates any risk of infection.

• This treated medical waste material is then shredded, quality-checked and compressed into clean, compact pellets in which the medical waste is rendered unidentifiable — and kept out of landfills.

Autoclave technology has been in use for more than a century and it is extremely effective. Scientists use a log-reduction scale to express levels of decreased biological contamination, and the autoclaves used in doctor’s office typically disinfect to a log four standard — which means 99.99 per cent of microbes are killed. The autoclave process used to make the pellets disinfects to a log six standard, killing 99.999 per cent of microbes. PELLA-DRX pellets are thus completely clean and safe. Once it is disinfected, shredded and pelletized, the material bears no physical resemblance to medical waste. As pellets it is compact, transportable and easily handled by automated industrial equipment for use. The autoclave and shredding process eliminates the incineration of medical waste, except when legally required, and thus reduces the emissions from this process. And medical waste converted into pellets will not be disposed in landfills.

Dr. Burton Kunik is Chairman and CEO of Sharps Compliance Corp. in Houston, Texas. Contact Burton at bkunik@sharpsinc.com


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