Welsh firm claims world first in sterilisation wrap recycling

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:
TCG's Sterimelt technology

Cardiff-based Thermal Compaction Group (TCG) has developed a recycling process that it said could revolutionise how healthcare providers worldwide deal with medical waste - and it is being pioneered at one of Wales’ oldest hospitals.

With support from the Bevan Commission which is tasked by the Welsh Government with helping SMEs to make health services improvements in Wales, TCG has developed a Sterimelt machine which produces briquettes from the wrap's base element, polypropylene, that can be manufactured into a variety of new domestic or industrial products, such as chairs and stationery.

St Woolos Hospital, Newport, part of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), has conducted a year-long trial involving sterilisation wrap which protects sterilised surgical instruments and equipment and is used extensively in the hospital environment.

"This is the first of its kind in the world,” said Tim Hourahine, technical and compliance manager at TCG. “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. The Welsh NHS is taking a close interest in what we are doing and other hospitals are very keen to embrace the technology.

“Currently, the majority of 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."

‘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.

Every hospital performing surgery generates this kind of waste on a daily basis.

The new recycling process takes the discarded wrap and using a Sterimelt machine is reported to reduce the volume size of the polypropylene sheets to nearly 90% of its original size.

Peter White, the waste and environmental manager for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board 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).”

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