skip to Main Content

Medical Waste: Turn Your Problem Into Opportunity

  • Blog

Looking for a medical waste solution that will actually solve your medical waste problem and increase your net savings?

You came to the right place.

This report is particularly intended for small to medium hospitals, rural and remote hospitals, tourism hospitals, and mobile hospitals. It is also targeted  to health-care facility and hospital managers, operators and leaders in establishments where medical waste treatment is associated with high costs and long processing operations.

Here is the good news:

The problem of medical waste can be turned into an opportunity. You can use it to generate thousands of dollars in net savings year after year. You will be able to systematically reduce your costs and generate clean thermal energy, in the form of hot water, for your facility. You can also reduce your liability, reduce the hospital’s ecological footprint, and reduce your employees’ health and safety risks. Although this strategy is not effortless, it is a better, easier and more efficient option than the traditional medical waste management methods. The solution that we are highlighting in this article will dramatically reduce your medical waste management worries and will increase your profits. In addition, you will get a great return beyond the monetary value.

This article will give you the resources to help you find out if this solution is a good fit for you. All you have to do is an assessment of your internal needs and actual situation.

Here is an overview of the topics that will be covered in this article:

1. Medical waste stream analysis: what’s in your hospital waste bags and containers?
2. Problems and facts about traditional medical waste management;
3. Medical waste management options: traditional treatments vs. new innovative solutions;
4. Comparison of the top 3 technologies most hospitals use for medical waste treatment. Pros and cons of MAGS (gasification) vs. autoclave, and MAGS (gasification) vs. incineration;
5. Added value and benefits to remote/rural hospitals, small-medium hospitals, tourism hospitals, and mobile hospitals;
6. Two ways MAGS will increase your business profits. Best cost-effective solution;
7. Why the new waste treatment technology will make your operations easier?
8. 12 signs you need to update your medical waste management system;
9. Answers to your questions;
10. Minimize your impact. Medical wastewater treatment;
11. Medical waste regulations and guidelines around the world.


1.Medical waste stream analysis: what’s in your hospital waste bags and containers?

Medical waste, also known as biomedical waste, includes infectious, pathological, chemical, pharmaceutical, cytotoxic, and radioactive waste, as well as non-hazardous or general waste. Click here to read the detailed description provided by the World Health Organization.

Medical waste is divided into two (2) main categories:

  • Non-hazardous: includes disposable masks and gowns, office material, food, etc.
  • Hazardous: includes chemical, toxic, explosive, pathogenic, or radioactive waste.

Medical waste treatment is a very challenging and costly activity for all hospitals and other health-care facilities. Contaminated gloves, vials, sharps containers, pipette tips, blood products, bodily fluids, etc. are harmful to humans, animals and the environment, if they are not handled carefully.

Hospitals and health-care facilities are the primary generators of medical and biomedical waste. However, there are other establishments that also produce hazardous medical waste categories, including laboratories, research centers, autopsy centers, animal research centers, blood banks and nursing homes.

It is important to know what types of by-products your facility generates.

We know that these audits are difficult to perform. Data is not very readily available due to the fact that handling this waste is associated to health risks. Here is a diagram showing a breakdown of the composition of medical waste.

In Canada, approximately 80-90% of hospital waste is non-hazardous. The following figure illustrates the average refuse composition by percentage of weight:

medical waste treatment

Diagram from (Strashok, Dale, Herbet, & Foon, 2010).

 

The composition of biomedical waste varies greatly from hospital to hospital. It is highly dependent on the internal procedures for collecting and classifying it.

Diagram from (Marinković, Vitale, Janev Holcer, Dzakula, & Pavić, 2008).

 

Your team has to complete an audit in order to understand and categorize the types of waste generated in your facility. This will help you to determine the best treatment method.

 

2. Problems and facts about traditional medical waste management:

Horror stories on medical waste washing up on beaches keep surging in different parts of the world because the traditional waste management system needs to be changed. Click here, here, here, and here to see a few recent examples. It is very dangerous.

We all agree that this is an unacceptable disaster and can cause death to someone who comes into contact with a contaminated needle.

The fish and fauna could get contaminated too.

With all that in mind, it is clear that we have a big medical waste pollution problem and a high risk health hazard.

But solutions exist. Studies and facts are available to anyone. The will of change is what will make a difference.

This kind of problem will not happen if the medical waste is treated on-site with MAGS. 

 

3. Medical waste management options: traditional treatments vs. innovative solutions:

How do you manage and treat the medical waste generated by your facility?

The common process of medical waste management used by most hospitals is, in most cases, complicated. It is often associated with excessive costs, difficult operations, many stakeholders, sub-contractors, dangerous health threats and environmental hazards.

But it does not have to be complicated!

In the following section, you will see how most hospitals and health-care facilities treat their medical waste (illustration 1, traditional options), and how they can improve their management operations (illustration 2, innovative option). Some of these treatments are more used than others, while some are more effective.

 

• Traditional options for medical waste management:

Here is an illustration of the common options that most medical facilities use in order to treat their regulated medical waste.

The common procedure of disposal is generally done in association with an external waste management company hired by the hospital or facility.

 


For your information, here is a summary of the most used methods for traditional medical waste treatment:

  • Autoclave: the disinfection of medical waste by an autoclave consists of exposing the materials to saturated steam under pressure in an enclosed environment. It is a popular method of disinfection in hospitals. Commonly, autoclaves are used in conjunction with physical treatment processes such as shredding or grinding.

 

  • Chemical treatment: the disinfection by application of chemicals to contaminated materials. The disinfectant is usually accompanied by shredding or grinding of the medical waste to ensure maximum contact with the material. Chemical treatment can be considered most suited for treating liquids like blood, urine, stool and hospital sewage.

 

  • Microwave irradiation: a volumetric heating process to reduce and disinfect medical waste volumes. High energy electromagnetic field rapidly heats liquids contained in the refuse, resulting in the destruction of infectious components.

 

  • Incineration: a common treatment process to destroy biomedical waste using an enclosed device and controlled flame combustion. It is used to eliminate all forms of combustible materials, while sterilizing inorganic portions. It has a negative perception because of human health concerns, environmental issues and financial impact.

 

The first and most commonly used option for the management of medical waste, is a very costly full off-site treatment. It also requires internal management, sorting and storage. In this scenario, the regulated medical waste is transported by a refrigerated truck to a contractor owned/operated waste management facility, where it is either incinerated or autoclaved and then landfilled.  The transportation, incineration and landfilling of medical waste is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, especially when medical is subjected to long-distance transportation.

The second most common option is a combination of on-site and off-site treatment procedures. In some cases, the hospital is required to disinfect the medical waste on-site before sending it to the external management company. The rest of the cycle is very similar to the first option. The medical waste is incinerated and then sent to landfills, or shredded on-site and sent directly to landfills.

 

But why do all of this when you can actually minimize the process, reduce your team’s tasks, and actually make money?

 

• Innovative option for medical waste treatment: Micro Auto Gasification System (MAGS)

Our main focus in this section will be on MAGS (gasification) because it is a clean, safe, and highly effective solution for medical waste treatment in terms of operation, costs and benefits, as compared to alternatives.

 

 

Micro Auto Gasification System, MAGS is a simple and very compact unit capable of converting almost any combustible material, including medical waste, into renewable thermal energy and bio-char.  MAGS is designed to recover energy contained in the by-products and use it as clean fuel for the process. Not only does MAGS treat biomedical and hazardous waste, it can also treat general municipal garbage and other combustible residues or by-products.

Treating medical waste on-site using MAGS will replace the traditional cycle of using an autoclave, shredder and/or incinerator. Also, it will generate many gains that we will talk about later in the article.

MAGS is a relatively new and innovative waste treatment technology. It is a compact waste-to-energy appliance offering a lot of benefits, not only to hospitals but to many other markets generating combustible byproducts. MAGS is very flexible because it can accept almost all types of combustible materials and has many advantages over traditional treatment methods. In addition to being a fuel efficient, environmentally safe technology, MAGS does not require pre-processing and can accept a variety of materials- including biomedical hazardous waste, pharmaceuticals, contaminated packaging, and more- to produce thermal energy to be used by the site where the materials are generated (e.g. heating the hospital).

 

Click here to learn more about MAGS.

Watch the video below to understand how the system works.

So what is the best technology for your hospital? And how can you choose the best solution for your case?

 

4. Comparison of the top 3 technologies most hospitals use for medical waste treatment. Pros and cons: MAGS (gasification) vs. autoclave and MAGS (gasification) vs. incineration:

Let’s take a look at what advantages and disadvantages we get using traditional medical waste treatments (autoclave and incineration) or pioneering, revolutionary solutions (gasification by MAGS). Here are some facts about each technology, its pros and cons.

Advantages:

MAGS (gasification)AutoclaveOff-site incineration
On-site full treatment: eliminating transport cost and hazards completely, reducing the procedure cycle, and generating heat to be used in the facility. On-site disinfection before biomedical waste transport, eliminating hazards associated with transport.
Waste-to-energy, 2 in 1 technology: medical waste treatment and energy generator. The energy recovered can be used on-site.
Can disinfect medical waste, including hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass.Can disinfect medical waste, including hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass.Can disinfect medical waste, including hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass.
Can treat most waste streams including medical waste, lubricating oils and sludge oils.Can treat most waste categories including medical waste, lubricating oils and sludge oils.
Safe and effective.Simple operation.
Units are modular making them more flexible to install and remove depending on need.Process can be modularized. Application can be scaled according to waste generation.
Socially demanded for its environmental and social safety values (social endorsement).Socially and politically acceptable, as compared to incineration in particular.
Significantly reduces weight and volume of waste. Can reach over 95% mass and volume reduction.Recycling potential: autoclavable plastics, petri dishes and glass tubes can be reused after they are disinfected and washed. The disinfected plastic waste can also be shredded and passed onto recycling.Significantly reduced waste volume. High destruction efficiency. Can reach over 95% mass and volume reduction.
Best option to reduce the environmental footprint: clean gas emissions, reducing greenhouse gases related to transport and landfills, and recovering thermal energy.
In many cases, less expensive than the regular medical waste treatment cycle.

 

Disadvantages:

MAGS (gasification)AutoclaveOff-site Incineration
Not suitable for treating recognizable body parts. Certain plastics cannot be autoclaved: if accidentally placed in, the material will melt and plug the drain line. Cannot autoclave corrosives, solvents or volatiles.Off-site treatment: biohazard created in the transportation of biomedical waste.
Requires on-site labor for operation and maintenance.Requires on-site labor for operation and maintenance.Negative public perception.
Unchanged appearance of sterilized waste (unless shredded).
Exterior surfaces can be very hot especially older models with no heat shielding. Burn and scald accidents are common using autoclaves.
Maintenance is demanding: daily and weekly, monthly procedures.Maintenance is demanding: daily and weekly, monthly procedures.High investment and operating costs, and high maintenance.
Innermost contents of the autoclave bag are sometimes left untreated due to overfilling the bag or autoclave.
Studies have shown that both old and new incinerators have contributed to the contamination of local soil and vegetation by organic and inorganic compounds.
Dangerous health effects have been associated to incinerator emissions such as cancer, respiratory symptoms, and congenital malformations.

 

5. Added value and benefits to rural/remote hospitals, small to medium hospitals, tourism hospitals, and mobile hospitals:

MAGS is a great solution for medical waste treatment in every hospital. But it is especially beneficial to small-medium hospitals, remote hospitals, hospitals located in rural areas, and tourism hospitals, for all the reasons shown below.

Added Value & BenefitsRural/ remote hospitalSmall to medium hospital
(100-500 beds)
Tourism hospitalMobile hospital
Waste-to-energy feature/ Clean thermal energy to be used on-siteYESYESYESYES
Consolidated all-in-one solution to treat most waste streamsYESYESYESYES
Effective destruction and sterilization of infectious and hazardous materials, eliminating health and environmental risksYESYESYESYES
Carbon footprint reduction and clean air emissionsYESYESYESYES
Off-grid capability and self-sufficient operationYESYESYESYES
Net savings on waste management servicesYESYESYESYES
On-site solution eliminating transport risks and liability YESYESYESYES
Compact solution, flexible configuration (indoor and outdoor)YESYESYESYES
Easily deployed in emergency situationsYES
Mobile solutionYES

 

If you think that your facility can benefit from these advantages, contact us here.

 

6. Two ways MAGS will increase your net savings. Best cost-effective solution:

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, there is a way to turn your medical waste burden into an opportunity to make more money, simplify your operations, improve your social responsibility performance and reduce your ecological footprint. You could be on the way to become a “Green hospital” or a ZERO discharge facility. You can reduce your impact on the environment while also substantially reducing costs.

 

The way to do it is by treating your medical waste directly on-site using MAGS (treatment by gasification), and recovering renewable energy from by-products to use it within your hospital.

 

The idea is simple. Instead of going through the long and painful cycle involving many stakeholders, high operation costs, high health risks and high environmental impacts, you could choose the solution that gives you more for less.

Less costs, less liability, less impact. Better performance, better results…

How to do this? Use MAGS to:

  1. Eliminate fees related to the contracted waste management company. Usually, the fees include the cost of transport, treatment and disposal, sorting equipment, cost of labor, fees for refrigerated truck transport, cost of gas, and more;
  2. Recover renewable thermal energy to dramatically reduce your heating costs. This is possible because of the energy recovery feature of MAGS. An on-site waste-to-energy stream can be used to cover part of the hospital thermal energy demand, which is a sustainable way to decrease costs and improve performance.

What you can see below is a calculator sheet. It shows the average costs related to medical waste management in an average hospital. The avoided costs associated with energy generation and waste removal are taken into account, in addition to the costs for operation of MAGS (labour, utilities, consumables and maintenance).

At the end, the calculation shows your net savings per year if you install one MAGS in your hospital or health-care facility. The numbers are outstanding. Have a look:

Costs per year
Labour$12,375
Utilities $12,578
Consumables/maintenance$10,500
Total Direct Costs $35,453
Savings per year
Savings from thermal energy$29,700
Savings from waste removal$108,900
Total savings $138,600
Net Savings$103,147

This calculation shows that the best cost-effective solution for medical waste treatment is the MAGS. In the case analyzed above, the ROI will be almost 30% per year. Therefore, the payback period is around 3 years. It could be less or more depending on your actual costs and your annual net savings with MAGS.

To know if this system is a good fit for your hospital, speak to one of our team experts and find out the result.

Watch the case study below done in a Canadian mid-sized hospital. 

 

7. Why the new waste treatment technology will make your operations easier?

Choosing MAGS to process your medical waste management will offer tremendous added value to your team and business. The technology will bring many benefits, including convenience, cost savings, reduced risk, improved image and environmental friendliness.

With this being said, the technology will make your life:

  • More convenient because you can treat all hospital waste categories in one place;
  • Simpler and economical because you will eliminate your waste service sub-contractor;
  • Less risky because you reduce your liability due to on-site treatment;
  • More compelling because you will improve your public image and social perception, and demonstrate a forward-thinking mentality and leadership position; and
  • Environmentally friendly because you will reduce your carbon footprint and get a few steps closer to become a “green” facility.

 

8. 12 Signs you need to update your medical waste management system: 

  • Your autoclave is not working at its optimal performance
  • You are considering to replace the hospital autoclave that you already own
  • The poor operation of your existing system is frustrating you
  • You know that you can have a system that is better performing than what you already have
  • Your medical waste transport is costing you a lot of money
  • You have challenges concerning medical waste storage in your facility
  • You noted an increase in your energy costs. Heating and hot water are costing you a lot
  • You are looking for new ways to reduce your costs and increase your profits
  • You are starting to take eco-friendly initiatives/actions in terms of management and operations to reduce your carbon footprint
  • You have corporate social responsibility goals to reach in the short and long-term
  • You have a budget allocated for new projects, development initiatives and utility investments
  • You are ready to be a leader in terms of adopting new ways of dealing with medical waste

You can download this checklist HERE and share it with your team for an internal assessment. GET YOUR FREE DOCUMENT NOW.

If you have checked one or more of the previous statements, then it is time to start evaluating a new solution for your case.

Book a 30 minute free consultation session with one of our experts.

 

9. Answers to your questions:

Here are some of the questions that many of our clients have asked us in the past:

 

Q: How long does it take to get the system delivered?

A: The system takes approximately 3 months to be delivered after receiving the order.

 

Q: How difficult is it to unpack and install the machine?

A: The system is easily unpacked and installed by the client, as per Terragon’s instructions.

 

Q: Does the product require training or expert assistance?

A: Training is required for the operation and maintenance of the machine.  Terragon provides comprehensive hand-on training, as well as a Remote Technical Service to assist customers with operational issues.

 

Q: Where can MAGS be located?

A: MAGS is a very compact system (2.5 m x 3.5 m x 2.1 m), which can either located inside a building or within a standard shipping container (20 ft).

 

Q: How effective are the product’s features and functions?

A: Very effective. You can treat 20-30 kg per hour of any type of medical waste and get more than 90% volume reduction and efficiency.

 

Q: Do I need other services to make this product work? How easy are they to obtain?

A: You may need to obtain a permit to use MAGS in your facility. It depends on your location and legal requirements of your municipality/province/state.

 

Q: Does the product require external maintenance? How easy is it to maintain it?

A: Routine maintenance of the system will be performed by the hospital’s trained personnel based on the training manual and instructions from Terragon.

 

Q: What can be done with the remaining of the waste?

A: After treating your medical waste with MAGS, approximately 5% of the initial volume remains as bio-char. This residue is recovered as a sterilized inert material that can be discharged safely in a landfill.

 

Q: What are the gas emissions produced by MAGS?

A: MAGS produces a clean off-gas which meets the highest standards of air emission regulations.

 

It is easy to eliminate many of your waste management problems and reduce your costs. But are you willing to?

 


TAKE OUR SURVEY Tell us if we answered your questions! What else do you want to know? Please take out a few moments to complete the following survey to help us serve you in the best way possible. TAKE OUR SURVEY


 

If you are ready to learn more about the implementation of MAGS, or need any additional detail, click here and speak to someone from our team!


 

10. Minimize your impact. Medical wastewater treatment (WETT-S system)

WETT-S is an additional unit that can be integrated with MAGS in your hospital to treat highly contaminated wastewater for recycle, reuse or safe discharge.

It is a great solution for hospitals that are looking for ways to improve their environmental impacts and maybe become a ZERO discharge facility.

Wastewater from hospitals and health-care facilities can be divided into two sections as well: regular wastewater and hazardous wastewater.

The regular treatment method used is to combine all the wastewater streams and try to treat a much polluted wastewater. It is not the best approach. The process could be more efficient.

Instead, what we suggest with the WETT-S approach is to separate the hazardous and non-hazardous wastewater streams. Treat the regular non-hazardous stream as municipal wastewater. Isolate the more dangerous wastewater streams and focus on treating them separately.

These specific streams can include wastewater from:

  • Dialysis department
  • Chemotherapy department
  • Endocrinology department
  • MRI department
  • Different laboratories and test centers

Click here to learn about WETT-S.

 

11. Medical waste regulations or guidelines around the world

    • Click here to read about the regulations in the United States of America;
    • Click here to read the guidelines for the management of biomedical waste in Canada;
    • Click here to read about regulations in the United Kingdom;
    • Click here to read about the policies and governance in Australia;
    • Click here to read a manual by the International Committee of the Red Cross;
    • Click here to read the best management practices for hospitals by Washington State Department of Ecology;
    • Click here to read about the disposal of medical waste in India.
Back To Top