Sharps repurposes medical waste

Sharps Compliance has launched a program designed to take medical waste out of the landfill and re-use it in the construction industry.

The Houston-based medical waste management company, which handles used syringes, needles, lancets and other medical waste from more than 9 million individuals and small companies around the country, has unveiled the GREEN Waste Conversion Process. The company will process the 100,000 pounds of medical waste collected each day at its plant in Carthage, Texas, into PELLA-DRX, a clean, raw material used in the manufacture of concrete.

“The world of medical waste has been a complex and expensive arena,” said David Tusa, Sharps’ executive vice president and CFO. “Green initiatives in this country are very important, and we set about trying to figure out how we could take part in that. What we really wanted to do was repurpose (medical waste), and so we’ve come up with something that’s very unique in the industry.”

According to Research and Markets, a recovering economy and aging population are combining to increase the demand for medical waste disposal. In addition, federal regulations are curtailing the use of incinerators to treat medical waste, forcing healthcare providers to either upgrade their incinerators or use commercial facilities such as landfills – both very expensive processes.

Sharps collects used medical materials from home health agencies, retail clinics, small businesses, private practices, individuals and the government – pretty much any generator of medical waste outside the hospital or large healthcare setting. The waste is shipped to Sharps via the U.S. Postal Service, and the company spends roughly $100,000 a year disposing of that waste in landfills.

“When you take medical waste to a landfill, it’s very, very, very expensive,” Tusa said.

“Sharps’ waste conversion process and the PELLA-DRX product are designed to address these medical waste concerns,” said Burton Kunik, the company’s CEO and chairman, who reportedly learned of the idea while attending a conference hosted by the Product Stewardship Institute. “Absolutely none of the medical waste we process will ever go to a landfill. Instead, it is repurposed into a raw material that becomes part of a new product. With our ground-breaking conversion process, medical waste throughout the world can now become a sustainable product managed in the most effective, environmentally thoughtful means possible.”

Company officials expect not only to eliminate their own waste disposal fees with this program, but also market the new material to cement manufacturers and other segments of the construction industry. They see this as a potential solution to a billion-dollar issue affecting healthcare providers of all sizes, from the single physician to the large network.

Tusa said the program may be adopted by hospitals and large healthcare providers as well.

Kunik said the program should appeal not only to healthcare providers looking to reduce waste disposal costs, but to everyone who wants to improve the environment. He pointed out that President Barack Obama has mandated that federal agencies cut their own contribution to global warming by 28 percent by 2020.