Could Your Old Medical Waste Be Used To Generate Energy?

If you've recently been diagnosed with a chronic condition that will require you to generate medical waste (like discarded needles, ostomy bags, or wound dressings), you may be wondering whether there's anything you can do to keep the amount of waste produced to a manageable level. While there are a number of services designed to help collect and process your medical waste in a quick and efficient way, these can often require that the waste be incinerated or placed into a landfill after being decontaminated. Is there anything the environmentally-conscious patient can do? Read on to learn more about how some companies may be utilizing biohazardous waste as a means of generating energy, as well as how you can keep your own medical waste disposal practices as "green" as possible.

Can medical waste generate energy?

Because of the logistics involved in keeping this potentially hazardous waste "safe" -- unable to injure or sicken those who may come into contact -- the most inexpensive way to dispose of this waste often involves incineration. However, because some viruses and bacteria can still survive this process (and be spewed into the surrounding air with the other byproducts created), incinerated medical waste usually requires an additional level of air filtration as compared with the incineration of other types of non-hazardous waste.

Some scientists have devised a way to generate energy from the "waste heat" created through the incineration of medical waste. Termed plasma gasification melting (PGM), this process incinerates medical waste, cleans biohazardous materials from the air, and uses the smoke created by incineration to produce a superheated steam that can serve as a means to generate power. 

While generating energy from waste heat is not a new concept, this process seems to be the most viable way to utilize the energy created when hazardous or biologically dangerous materials are incinerated.

What are your "green" waste disposal options?

Even if there aren't yet any PGM facilities in your immediate area, you should still be able to dispose of your medical waste without fear that you're causing harm to the environment.

One of the most eco-friendly ways for you to dispose of medical waste is recycling -- particularly items like discarded syringes and plastic products. In many cases, these items can be sterilized and melted down into sterile, reusable plastics or rubbers. A recycling company should be able to provide you with a secure lockbox to place these items before they can be picked up.

For more information, contact TransChem Environmental or a similar company.