Newport Hospital pioneers world first in sterilisation wrap recycling

Sterimelt machine with sterilisation wrap (Foto: Thermal Compaction Group)

Cardiff, UK — One of Wales’ oldest hospitals – St Woolos Hospital at Newport – is pioneering a cutting edge recycling process which could innovate how healthcare providers worldwide deal with medical waste sterilisation wrap material. The new recycling process uses a machine developed by Thermal Compaction Group Ltd which produces briquettes from the wrap’s base element, polypropylene, that can be manufactured into a variety of new domestic or industrial products.

“This is the first of its kind in the world,” said Mr Tim Hourahine, Technical and Compliance Manager of Thermal Compaction Group Ltd (TCG Ltd). “The trial has shown that we can take the wrap as waste, reduce its volume substantially, render it inert and then re-introduce it to the supply chain. There is so much interest because, at the moment, the majority of the waste wrap is either landfilled or incinerated which is exceptionally expensive. The recycling process removes that cost, plus it produces a workable product which will have a commercial value in the future.” After a year-long trial, Thermal Compaction Group and the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) now have agreed a deal to begin using the Sterimelt machine in earnest.

Sterilisation wrap to Sterimelt machine

‚Sterilisation wrap’ is an integral part of the surgery process and is used in operating theatres across the UK and the world. It is used to package surgical instruments and equipment before they are subjected to a rigorous sterilisation process involving high-pressure steam. The specially designed wrap which is permeable for sterilants such as steam, then prevents airborne bacteria and other contaminants to enter the packaging and thus contaminate the instruments and products after sterilisation. The sterilised and wrapped packs are then delivered intact to operating theatres ready for the sterile contents to be used by the surgical team.

The new recycling process takes the discarded wrap and, using a Sterimelt machine, reduces the volume size of the polypropylene sheets to nearly ninety per cent of its original size. The heating and volume reduction process of the Sterimelt machine turns the used sterilisation wrap into a sanitised, solid briquette that can be used to create thousands of products from polypropylene such as buckets, stationery, ropes and chairs. Every hospital performing surgery generates this kind of waste on a daily basis.

Amount will increase

Mr Peter White, the Waste and Environmental Manager for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), which agreed to trial the recycling process at St Woolos Hospital, said: “Before we implemented this system, all the wrap was going out as infectious clinical waste so there is a significant disposal cost when it goes to alternative heat treatment (incineration).” And he added: “Currently, two tonnes of sterilisation wrap from the Royal Gwent Hospital are recycled and diverted from the clinical waste stream per month. However, this will increase once the other hospital sites within the Health Board implement the new system.”

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Source: Thermal Compaction Group Ltd