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Recycling innovation for clinical PP

A Welsh hospital has helped to develop machinery that recycles polypropylene (PP), which is widely used in the health sector to protect sterilised surgical instruments and medical equipment.

Cardiff-based Thermal Compaction Group (TCG) manufactures equipment which produces briquettes from PP that can be reprocessed into other products including chairs and stationery.

St Woolos Hospital, Newport, part of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), conducted a year-long trial involving the sterilisation wrap and TCG’s Sterimelt equipment.

Tim Hourahine, technical and compliance Manager of TCG, said it was a world-first.

“The trial has shown that we can take the wrap as waste, reduce its volume substantially, render it inert and then reintroduce 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,” he said.

“Currently, the majority of waste wrap is either landfilled or incinerated. The recycling process removes that cost, plus it produces a workable product which will have a commercial value in the future.”

Peter White, ABUHB waste and environmental manager, 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).”

‘Sterilisation wrap’ is used in operating theatres to package surgical instruments and equipment before they are subjected to a rigorous sterilisation process involving high-pressure steam. An average sized hospital with six operating theatres and treatment rooms will generate approximately 100kg of clinical wrap material a day. The Sterimelt machine reduces the volume of the polypropylene sheets to nearly 90% of their original.

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