A Rubbish Project: Recycling Innovation
Peter White & Chris Davies, Waste & Energy Environmental Managers
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
We aim to divert a waste – currently being classified as clinical waste and heat-treated using a very carbon intensive process at high cost – into a commodity that has revenue value.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT:
The project is a “world-first” as it is the first time that polypropylene sterilisation wrap has been processed at a hospital site using a Sterimelt machine.
The Sterimelt machine was designed and developed by Thermal Compaction Group (TCG) and is used to melt sterilisation wrap material and converts it into a liquid that flows into a mould cavity to create a block of material that is dense and sterile. The machine produces one 12 – 15Kg block of sterilised polypropylene during each cycle with a volumetric reduction of 85%.
The Health Board can demonstrate a number of benefits in relation to the diversion of material from the clinical waste stream, while producing a commercial polymer with a commodity value. The St Woolos/Royal Gwent hospital is the first in the world to experience this type of technology and will lead to future projects to look at other plastic wastes produced in the healthcare environment. These will enhance savings within the healthcare waste sector while creating a worthwhile e-saleable plastic.
Further plans are in process for collaboration with a major established Healthcare Supplier to look at creating the use of 3D printing technology directly from the hospitals own “plastic waste”.
The Bevan Commission funding has enabled a member of the waste team to work on the project for a period of four months to optimise the Sterimelt process and scale up the concept throughout the Health Board’s other hospitals.
Trials have also been run on processing disposal polypropylene curtains and other plastic healthcare consumable products. It is envisaged that the technology will be adopted throughout Wales and across the NHS in the UK with interest from across the world.
The other future plans relate to the use of the recycled polypropylene block as a feedstock for 3D printing. The block would be granulated and processed into a filament for 3D printing.
The longer term goal would be for each hospital to have their own Sterimelt machine and 3D printer creating a close loop on site for the manufacture of plastic healthcare consumables.
FIT WITH PRUDENT HEALTH:
The project has reduced cost and carbon and introduced a truly sustainable approach which demonstrates closed loop recycling and the principles of the circular economy.
It showcases a ‘best in class’ innovative world-first technology which has turned a waste product and revenue cost into a recyclate with a commodity value.
Part of cohort Bevan Exemplar Projects 2016-17