Medical and pharmaceutical waste comes from hospitals, doctors/dentists offices, skilled & unskilled nursing care, group practices, specialized out-patient services and veterinarians. Examples of medical waste are: soiled or blood soaked bandages, culture dishes and other glassware, discarded surgical gloves, and instruments (e.g. scalpels), needles, cultures, stocks, swabs used to inoculate cultures, removed body organs and lancets used to draw blood samples.
For medical waste generators (medium and large hospitals/health clinics or medical waste collectors), the current trend is clearly in the direction of greater efficiency in sorting. The pressure for cost containment has grown in the health care industry and the price for medical waste treatment and disposal has increased. It has been estimated that hospitals and long-term care (LTC) facilities in the US waste generate at least 125 million pounds of pharmaceuticals annually. Our research reflects that medical waste treatment systems are expected to experience high growth due to a growing and aging population, a rising incidence of chronic disease, and new requirements for disposal in community and home settings.
PEAT’s PTDR plasma-arc plasma gasification system in Sacramento, CA is currently permitted for sanitized medical waste treatment, among other waste streams. The PTDR plasma-arc plasma gasification technology has received numerous regulatory approvals throughout the globe, including the California Department of Public Health, which certified the technology as an alternative to incineration for medical waste treatment.
Since October 2011, PEAT has been performing small medical waste treatment campaigns. Most recently in August, PEAT hosted potential clients from Utah to witness a medical waste treatment campaign on waste supplied from the San Jose area.
It has been estimated that hospitals and long-term care (LTC) facilities in the US waste at least 125 million pounds of pharmaceuticals annually – a staggering figure. Kevin Bain in third quarter edition of Medical Waste Management looked at the inventories of drugs maintained by coroner offices to assess the scope and magnitude of household pharmaceutical waste. Data from a pilot study conducted by the Clark County Coroner’s Office in Nevada illustrated a death rate of 0.008 (same as the US in 2005). The total number of cases accepted by the coroner’s office was 3,393; of those, 46.4% included drug inventories. 325,000 doses of wide array of drugs – not including liquids, powders or delivery systems (i.e. Patches or syringes) were collected representing greater than 102 kilograms of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Bain then extrapolated that data to the entire US deceased population, the coroner’s office estimated that almost 18 metric tons of APIs are disposed of just by coroner’s office alone.
How is all this pharmaceutical waste disposed of currently?
Flushing them down the toilet is the most common method used by coroners to dispose of Pharmaceutical Waste remaining in the household following a person’s death. The issue is that the wastewater treatment plants or domestic septic systems are not designed to remove pharmaceutical waste from the effluent – this results in small concentrations of pharmaceutical waste can end up in drinking water. The FDA recommends that most pharmaceutical waste be disposed of by basically mixing them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and putting them into sealable bag or empty coffee can and tossing them out in the trash.
Pharmaceutical waste is an ideal feedstock for a plasma-arc, plasma gasification waste to energy system in that it is typically low in moisture/water content and high in oxygen and carbon. This combination minimizes the energy and heat required from the plasma arc, plasma gasification heating system (i.e. plasma torches). When the required from the plasma torches is low in the PTDR plasma-arc system, generating waste to energy becomes much more favorable.
For example, in a recent PTDR-100 a plasma-arc, plasma gasification waste to energy system proposal advanced where the feedstock proposed is 90% pharmaceutical waste (balance was inorganic alkaline batteries), the heat required from the plasma arc system was minimized to where the estimated power consumption for the entire system was less than 50 kW. Assuming an efficiency of 17,000 BTU/kW-hr on the generation side, it was estimated that this PTDR-100 a plasma-arc, plasma gasification waste to energy system would generate over 60 kW of electricity.
Waste Treatment Plant
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.