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In a world where infectious medical waste can cause serious harm to both people and the environment, some healthcare executives are trailblazing a more streamlined approach to waste treatment and management. 

With innovation and creativity, they are turning what used to be a daunting and resource-intensive task into a smooth operation that’s efficient and effective. Let’s take a closer look at the innovative approaches that are transforming the way we think about medical waste management.

The Proximity Principle

The Proximity Principle of Waste Management and Treatment states that waste should be managed as close as possible to the point of generation. This principle not only reduces the cost of waste management, but also eradicates the environmental impact of infectious medical waste transportation.

The proximity concept is especially important in healthcare waste management, where efficient hazardous waste treatment and disposal is crucial for public health and safety. Healthcare institutions may limit the danger of contamination and the spread of infectious illnesses, as well as the discharge of hazardous chemicals into the environment, by processing medical waste on-site.

Whatsmore, the Proximity Principle has the potential to result in considerable cost reductions for healthcare institutions. External waste processing and transportation is very costly; however, by treating waste on-site, healthcare institutions can avoid these expenses and reinvest the savings in patient care or other essential areas.

In addition to financial savings and environmental benefits, the Proximity Principle will assist healthcare institutions in meeting local rules and international waste management requirements. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that healthcare institutions treat and dispose of waste as near to the source of generation as they can adopting non-burning treatment technologies to reduce threats to public health and the environment.

The Innovators

New Somerset Hospital (CEO: Dr. Donna Stokes)

Before the Newster system, the oldest hospital in South Africa, New Somerset Hospital used large cardboard boxes to transport the waste to an interim store area where it had to be kept in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled room. According to Dr. Donna Stokes, CEO of the hospital, “The waste boxes had to be kept off the floor, which made the job of stacking them difficult.” A truck had to come every day to pick up the waste for incineration, which released toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and posed a risk of thermal burns. The Newster system has replaced this process, reducing the risks associated with the previous method.

Dr. Stokes also stated that “The Newster system provides a closed-unit solution that treats infectious waste from the moment it is generated to the moment it comes out of the system as no longer infectious.” This process has significantly reduced the cost of waste management at the hospital, which has resulted in a saving of R1.3 million per year when compared to the previous waste management system. These savings can now go directly to patient care, which is the core business of the hospital.

George Hospital (CEO: Dr. Michael Vonk)

When it comes to medical waste disposal, George Hospital in South Africa’s remote Garden Route District faced serious difficulty. The hospital had to travel 450 kilometres five times a week to deliver infectious garbage to a medical waste treatment plant in Cape Town. According to Dr. Michael Vonk, CEO of George Hospital, “It was not only inconvenient, but it also left a substantial carbon imprint. Sharps trash had to be incinerated as well, which had a detrimental effect on the environment and bottom line.”

Faced with this issue, Dr. Vonk and his team decided to implement the Proximity Principle of Waste Management by procuring and installing Newster medical waste sterilization treatment equipment on-site to deal with hospital infectious waste at the point of generation. Dr. Vonk explained that “The new equipment enabled mechanical waste processing by employing friction heat technology to completely sterilize it.” This solution not only solved the problem of waste management but also reduced the hospital’s carbon footprint and saved costs associated with waste transportation.

The Onsite Revolution

Onsite medical waste sterilization treatment solutions have become increasingly popular in the healthcare industry due to the benefits they offer. These solutions are designed to handle infectious medical waste at the point of generation, reducing the risks associated with medical waste transportation, storage, and disposal. One of the key advantages of onsite medical waste treatment is that it reduces the environmental impact of healthcare facilities by treating the waste at zero emissions and significantly reducing the volume of waste that needs to be transported to off-site treatment facilities, thereby minimizing the carbon footprint associated with medical waste transportation.

In addition to the environmental benefits, onsite medical waste treatment systems also improve the operational efficiency of healthcare facilities. These systems reduce the need for storage space, eliminate the need for frequent infectious waste pick-ups, and allow healthcare facilities to focus on their core business of patient care.

Furthermore, onsite medical waste sterilization solutions enhance infection control measures, which is essential in healthcare settings. By treating infectious waste at the point of generation, the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of infections is significantly reduced. As is the threat of toxic pollutants released into the air and ground from incineration, including dioxins and furans which are human carcinogens.

Megatrends Driving Innovation

The implementation of onsite medical waste treatment technology is part of a larger movement towards sustainability and environmental responsibility, not just in the healthcare industry but across various industries. As more and more businesses and organizations adopt onsite waste management solutions, they are contributing to safer communities and a circular economy by reducing waste, minimizing their carbon footprint, and maximizing their resources.

The use of advanced technologies, such as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, has enabled healthcare facilities to efficiently manage their waste, while also enhancing their infection control measures and reducing their operational costs. By embracing onsite medical waste sterilization, healthcare facilities are taking a significant step toward a more sustainable future.

The IoT involves connecting devices and machines to the internet, allowing for real-time monitoring and data collection. With onsite waste sterilization systems, healthcare facilities can use IoT technology to monitor the status of the system and optimize its performance. Industry 4.0, which refers to the fourth industrial revolution, involves the integration of advanced technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and the IoT into manufacturing and other industries. Onsite medical waste sterilization technology is an example of the integration of advanced technology into waste management practices, improving operational efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

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The world of medical waste management has come a long way from the days of cardboard boxes and toxic fumes. With the adoption of onsite medical waste treatment technology, healthcare facilities are taking a giant leap toward sustainability and environmental responsibility. Who knew that treating waste at the point of generation could be so revolutionary? It’s time to say goodbye to the old ways and embrace the future of waste management. As the saying goes, “out with the old, in with the Newster”!

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