Pharmaceutical Waste

Waste Treatment 1 Comment »

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.

GHG Emissions

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A lot has been reported regarding the EPA going after GHG emissions, specifically CO2. Initially the thought was the EPA would just focus on the largest facilities (ones that release more than 25,000 tons per year), but it appears that this mandate may be expanded to other industries. Further while it appears this threshold may be increased (between 75-100,000 tpy – the EPA still intends to regulate at the 25,000 ton number – it just may give more time to those facilities to around 2013 possibly.

One in particular is the refineries, where the EPA may propose a new NSPS this summer that is expected to include GHG emissions.

One way a refinery can offset these emissions is using a PTDR system for industrial waste treatment whereabouts it could potentially reducing the carbon footprint associated with the industrial waste stream disposal process.

Carbon footprint reductions could be realized in the following areas:

  • Elimination of transportation as waste would no longer travel hundreds of miles for treatment and/or storage leading to reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx) and methane (CH4) emissions
  • Alternative waste-to-energy processing as waste would not longer be landfilled or incinerated leading to reductions in carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions

Further, when the syngas is consumed in gas engines as a fuel source (i.e. waste to energy), the emissions of the resulting flue gases are significantly lower than those generated by other methods such as landfilling and/or incineration.

PTDR facilities offer distinct advantages over conventional incinerator systems used for the thermal destruction of waste:

  • High operating and uniform temperatures preventing the formation of furans and dioxins (no “cold spots” in a PTDR)
  • A controlled processing atmosphere
  • No fly or bottom ash generated, requiring further treatment and disposal
  • A PTDR system produces a gas volume that is significantly less than the total combustion gas produced by an incinerator processing the same amount of waste
  • The minimization of outside air used in the sealed pyrolysis process reduces the potential for emission control problems, particularly those associated with nitrous oxides and other pollutants.

PEAT International designs advanced waste to energy & resources systems. PEAT’s waste treatment plants converts waste into energy and other useful end products. Industrial Waste Treatment Plants, Hazardous Waste Treatment Plants, Toxic Waste Treatment Plants with Plasma Thermal Destruction Recovery (PTDR) Technology.

Medical Waste Treatment

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The EPA first issued new performance standards for medical waste incineration in 1986 and then again in 1997 to curb pollutants, which prompted many hospitals to shut down their incinerators. Hospitals turned to autoclaving and steam sterilization, which can only treat limited aspects of medical waste and do not provide any volume reductions.

Over 2,300 medical waste incinerators have closed since 1997 and currently 57 (31 are operated by hospitals) are still online. EPA officials estimate that the new rules passed recently will cost roughly $15.5 million. If that was divided evenly over the 57 locations, that’s over $270,000 per location.

Reducing medical waste incineration is just one side; waste still needs to be thermally treated. At least 14 states have statues requiring incineration of trace-chemotherapy agents and pathological waste – both waste streams can be treated by Plasma Thermal Destruction and Recovery (PTDR).

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