Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM)

Revolutionising hazardous medical waste disposal

Health & Wellbeing

The new system would allow hospitals to treat large volumes of waste on site

Spotted: About 15 per cent of all medical waste generated around the world is considered hazardous, whether that be because it is radioactive, toxic, or potentially infectious. If not treated correctly, this waste can be extremely harmful to those responsible for handling and disposing of it. Existing disposal methods, including incineration, still pose risks to workers and the environment, potentially releasing carcinogenic pollution into the air if not done safely.

A new sterilisation system, developed by The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM), aims to make healthcare waste disposal safer and more efficient. The system is composed of a high-temperature, high-pressure steam sterilisation chamber that pulverises medical waste into small pieces so that the steam, heated to over 100 degrees Celsius, can penetrate the waste and successfully sterilise it.

Following initial testing, the researchers were able to process waste in 10 minutes at a temperature of 138 degrees Celsius, or in just over 5 minutes at 145 degrees Celsius. The technology is able to process over 100 kilogrammes of medical waste per hour on-site, removing virtually all infectious bacteria and viruses. According to Principal Researcher Bangwoo Han, “We will make all-out efforts to expand this technology to the sterilisation treatment of infected animal carcasses in the future.”

The sterilisation system has been installed at the Chungnam National University Hospital and tested for efficiency and stability by the Korea Testing Laboratory. The move to process medical waste directly at hospitals helps minimise the risk of infection during transportation and reduces waste management costs significantly. It is estimated that by processing just 30 per cent of annual medical waste with this system, hospitals could save ₩71.8 billion (around €48.8 million) a year.

Springwise has spotted ways that innovators are sustainably treating the waste generated at hospitals, including needles, anaesthetic gas, and single-use medical devices.

Written By: Lauryn Berry and Matilda Cox

Website: kimm.re.kr

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