Potential pharmaceutical waste rule change

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EPA officials recently proposed adding hazardous pharmaceutical wastes to the Universal Waste Rule as part of a larger effort to protect public health and the environment. In addition, the agency has called for a simpler, more streamlined system for disposal that will make it easier for generators to safely collect and dispose of hazardous wastes. The proposed rule would apply to pharmacies, hospitals, physicians and dentists offices, outpatient care centers, ambulatory health care services, veterinary clinics and other facilities that generate hazardous pharmaceutical wastes.

The rule would also make it possible for generators to dispose of non hazardous pharmaceutical waste as universal waste, and thus remove unregulated waste from wastewater treatment plants and landfills. The collection of personal medications from the public for proper disposal would be facilitated at various locations across the nation. Currently, the Universal Waste Rule includes such items as batteries, pesticides and a variety of other items found in industrial and household settings.

Thermal treatment solutions will be required to make this proposal work. Plasma Thermal Destruction and Recovery is ready for the challenge. In addition to the information posted two weeks in this blog forum, unlike incineration or metal-bearing waste stabilization, PEAT’s plasma gasification process does not create any secondary solid wastes that would require further treatment or landfilling. For example, incinerators produce large quantities of bottom and fly ash that are toxic in nature and require further treatment (with stabilization agents); the resulting post-treated materials (whose volume may have increased significantly) will also require final disposal, sometimes in specially designed hazardous waste landfills.

Ultimately the commercial success of the PEAT’s plasma gasification technology lies in its ability to generate a favorable net present value based on existing market prices, industry dynamics and metrics. Using a conservative price point for pharmaceutical waste at $0.50 per pound, important financial benefits can be seen. PEAT’s waste-to-energy systems designed for on-site treatment (PTDR-100 and PTDR-500) have the ability to process feedstock on a continuous basis, feeding 21 hours a day with three hours reserved for maintenance and inorganic vitrification/pre-heating. Using 340 days per year, this indicates 8,165 operational hours per year and payback returns under three years.

You can read more about PEAT’s plasma gasification solutions with regards to pharmaceutical waste in the below article.


As was written in that article, waste treatment and alternative energy generation are two of the most difficult challenges facing many industries today. An ever-increasing global output, coupled with the rapid industrialization seen in many developing countries, is forcing the world to not only rethink how it handles waste, but how it views waste as a resource. Plasma gasification – and specifically PEAT’s waste-to-energy PTDR technology – allows companies to do just that.

More detail on Plasma-Arc

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Plasma can be described as an electrically-charged gas where a specific amount of energy is added to separate the molecules into a collection of ions, electrons and charge-neutral gas molecules. Plasma indicates a gas volume with sufficient energy supplied (electromagnetic, electric and/or thermal) so that electrons that normally exist in specific numbers and at distinct energy level orbiting around the nucleus are freed from their orbital bonds. This plasma, with its constituents of individual molecules and electrons acts as a conductor of electricity, the resistance of which converts electrical energy to heat.

Depending on the amount of energy added, the resulting plasma can be characterized as thermal or non-thermal.

Thermal plasma heating technologies were widely developed in the early 1960’s in conjunction with space exploration and military applications programs in the United States (NASA) and the former Soviet Union. In particular, plasma torches were developed to provide an effective method to test the effectiveness and durability of heat shields required for space vehicle re-entry.

Plasma-arc systems have been widely used for destruction of hazardous wastes.
This extreme heat from this temperature breaks down wastes, forming synthesis gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) and a rock-like solid byproduct called slag.

The significant difference between plasma-arc systems and other thermal waste processing technologies is that the heat required for waste degradation is generated by the plasma itself and not via combustion of all or part of the waste.

PEAT Preparing Another PTDR-100 for Refinery Waste

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PEAT is finalizing the construction on another PTDR-100 Refinery Waste Treatment Plant for a client in China. This plasma gasification system, expected to be commissioned during the later part of June and early July, is being sought to treat refinery sludge and petrochemical waste.

The refinery waste product contains primarily water, and smaller amounts of non-aqueous liquids and solids, both organic and inorganic, are by-products of the refining and petrochemical industries. For example, a typical industrial waste stream from an oil refinery operation will contain about 80 percent-by-weight water, about 15 percent-by-weight oil, e.g., hydrocarbons and other non-aqueous liquids, and about 5 percent-by-weight solids. Due to environmental regulations, this industrial waste stream poses significant disposal problems for the oil refineries.

The PTDR waste-to-energy system will convert via plasma gasification approximately 50 kilograms/hr (110 lbs) of this refinery waste into syngas estimated to be almost 600,000 BTU/hr (150,000 kCal/hr).

PEAT International designs advanced waste to energy & industrial waste treatment plants. PEAT’s industrial waste treatment plants converts refinery waste into energy and other useful end products.

Pharmaceutical Waste

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Last week in an article in Waste & Recycling News, the National Community Pharmacists Association and Sharps Compliance Inc. said up to 200 million pounds of dispensed pharmaceuticals are not used each year. These unused drugs lead to chemicals from flushed or landfilled pharmaceuticals have been found in the drinking water of more than 50 million Americans.

With more stringent regulations in place, potential reclassifications forthcoming along with the additional environmental and “cradle-to-grave” pressures, the pharmaceutical industry is starting to focus on emerging technologies to assist in the management of pharmaceutical waste. Plasma gasification is certainly one of the more promising technologies that can assist with this emerging problem.

PEAT intends to offer future commercial PTDR-100 waste-to-energy systems the option of utilizing an integrated 50 kWe engine (right now a 25 kWe has been integrated). The integration of such a feature would provide approximately 2/3rd of the electricity for the system when processing pharmaceutical waste. It is worth noting that some utility consumption rates, including electricity vary depending on the waste feedstock being processed.

For PTDR-500 waste to energy systems, current projects have called for the syngas to be utilized in a number of different ways: to generate steam or to offset the use of fossil fuels in an existing boiler as well as the production of electric power. PEAT is in the process of undertaking the development work to integrate a larger gas engine (around 250 kWe) to directly generate electricity in a similar fashion to the PTDR-100 plasma gasification system.

In the PTDR-500 plasma gasification systems, the syngas could also be used as fuel source in a simple steam-cycle configuration (using the syngas in a conventional boiler/steam generator and then using the steam in a conventional steam turbine to produce electric power). The electric power produced (approximately 210 KWe from a steam cycle or approximately 250 KWe from a gas engine) would offset the system’s electricity consumption (approximately 180 KWe when processing pharmaceutical waste), thereby generating excess power that would be available for sale.

Peat International designs Pharmaceutical Waste Treatment Plants, which converts pharmaceutical waste into energy and other useful end products.

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