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Ecosteryl extracts valuable PP and PE from hospital waste

Finding a good solution for medical waste has become much more of a priority for companies in the aftermath of the pandemic, according to Ecosteryl. The third generation family company from Wallonia, Belgium, was eager to present its innovative technology at the IFAT tradeshow in Munich.

‘Treating medical waste used to be a niche in the recycling industry. It’s been gaining momentum and when the current president took over from his father, he decided to shift his focus from mining technology to a more sustainable market; treating potentially hazardous waste from hospitals,’ Ecosteryl’s Julia Melchio tells me at the expo. ‘There’s a lot of mixed materials in there; plastic waste, sharps, organic and potentially infectious matter. It’s by no means an easy stream to tackle.’

Ecosteryl, launched in 1947, has spent the last ten years perfecting its medical waste recycling process. ‘Whatever comes in, after we’ve treated it, the output is dry,’ Melcio says.

‘It can be further sorted into different plastic types like polypropylene and polyethylene. I’d say that represents about 60% of the hospital’s waste stream. Keep in mind that a lot of the material was previously incinerated. Being able to recover pure and dry fractions is a huge win for recyclers.’

Even so, still about 20% of the medical waste stream was not eligible for cost efficient recycling. ‘That’s because of small metallic fragments or glass. People figure it’s not worth the trouble,’ Melchio explains. ‘But yesterday we met up with a recycler here at the tradeshow who wants to start a special project with us to extract every last bit. Our team is very excited about this prospect.’

She points out that most hospitals opt for a system that can treat 75 kg per hour. The medium option takes care of 120kg per hour. ‘Then there’s the large scale system for big service providers that collect waste from multiple hospitals. It processes up to 300kg of medical waste per hour.’

Currently Ecosteryl represents many hospitals across France and the UK as well as abroad, in Malaysia and Kenya. ‘Ironically, there are no systems running in Belgium yet. The lobby for incineration is too strong,’ Melchio says. ‘We are in talks with industry specialists and politicians to hopefully change this. Perhaps things will be different when we meet again in two years’ time at IFAT 2024,’ she notes.

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