A NONDESCRIPT corner of a hospital site is being used to drive what Gwent's health board and a south Wales company hope will be a revolution in waste recycling.
Every day, piles of wrapping for medical equipment that usually has to be incinerated as clinical waste, are being transformed into re-usable material.
The process of transforming the polypropylene wrap from the Royal Gwent and St Woolos is carried out using a machine known as Sterimelt, which uses a heat-based process to reduce the size of the waste size and turn it into a sanistised, solid briquette that can then be re-used to make products such as filament for 3D printers.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has been working with Cardiff-based Thermal Compaction Group (TCG) on the project, and has now taken up the recycling method after a year's trial.
A hospital in Burton-upon-Trent, in Staffordshire, began using a Sterimelt machine for similar purposes last year, but Tim Hourahine, technical and compliance manager at TCG, said of the St Woolos machine: "This is the first of its kind in the world.”
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."
The arrangement means that the the health board can make money from the recycled wrapping, to reinvest in services.
"Currently, around three tonnes of clinical wrap from our hospitals per month is recycled and diverted from the clinical waste stream, and we’re continuing to develop the new system with hospital departments,” said Chris Davies, the health board's waste and environmental manager.
"Before we implemented this system, all the wrap was going out as infectious clinical waste so there was a significant disposal cost when it went for incineration."
TCG worked with the health board to develop the Sterimelt machine currently being used at St Woolos.
The recycling project at St Woolos was visited yesterday by health minister Vaughan Gething.
It has been recognised by the Bevan Commission in Wales - which provides expert advice on health and care to the Welsh Government and other bodies - as a leading example of health technology.
Credit: South Wales Argus 30th April 2018