Can Medical Waste Be Turned Into Energy?

Can Medical Waste Be Turned Into Energy? 

Turning medical waste into energy sounds like something they did on the Starship Enterprise. Is blood, feces, body parts, urine-soaked diapers, and buckets of slobber going to be used to power my food processor? I’d take a pass on that, except for one thing. It isn’t an idea from a science fiction movie. Medical waste is used to create energy. 

Benefits Of Turning Medical Waste Into Energy 

It Reduces Landfill Waste 

Medical waste is not like other waste. All of it is assumed to be infected, and much of it is hazardous. The landfills where we dump it must be specially constructed to contain the contaminated waste. Still, there remains the inherent problem of contamination. 

How much of our Earth are these landfills going to occupy in time? When the landfill structures age, will they fail? Will contamination seep through the ground into our groundwater? If we convert medical waste to energy, we provide positive answers to those questions. 

It Creates A Significant Amount Of Energy 

One ton of medical waste can generate enough power to power a home for a month. Some studies suggest we created 5.9 billion tons of medical waste each year before Covid-19, so our waste could power 5.9 billion homes for a month. 

It Recycles Excess Waste 

Medical waste contains a significant amount of metal. Needles, clips, hooks, and so on are made of steel, aluminum, and other metals that can be removed during the process of creating energy and then recycled and reused. 

It Is A Sustainable Process 

It sounds unbelievable, like a perpetual motion machine, but turning medical waste into energy will create the power to turn it into energy. It can sustain itself. 

Gasification Disposes Of Medical Waste And Generates Energy 

Gasification is a process where a solid or liquid feedstock, which is medical waste, is converted into a gaseous or liquefied fuel that is burned to release energy. 

Gasification powered one million motorized vehicles in Europe during WWII when petroleum was expensive and in short supply. The technology is not new, but it was abandoned due to lower-priced fuel oil after the war. 

The Stages Of Gasification 

Gasification occurs in five distinct stages

  • Drying 
  • Pyrolysis 
  • Combustion 
  • Cracking 
  • Reduction 

Drying is what we commonly understand. Excess moisture is drawn from the feedstock with heat.  

Pyrolysis is best understood as charring. The dried feedstock is fed into a low oxygen environment where high heat converts it into charcoal.  

Combustion is when the charcoal burns in an oxygenated chamber. That is the easy explanation, however. Volatile gasses are created during pyrolysis. Those gasses release heat when they move from a low-oxygen environment and mix with oxygen in a high-oxygen environment. The charcoal is burned, releasing water vapor and carbon dioxide as waste.  

Cracking occurs when large gas molecules, such as tars, are converted with heat into lighter gasses. This step is essential because the tar molecules would otherwise condense into a sticky tar which would foul machinery.  

Reduction is the opposite of combustion. It takes combustion waste and removes the oxygen from the water vapor and carbon dioxide, creating more volatile gasses. Reduction co-occurs with combustion in a dynamic balance. 

The offspring of this process is lots of heat, which can be recycled back into the process to sustain itself, or it can be used to heat water or create steam to power electric generators. The residue is a material called char-ash, which can be filtered to remove any metals and then recycled back into the process to be burned again or used as fertilizer. 

Challenges Are Why We Are Here 

 A ton of medical waste is frequently created in just one hospital in only one day. 

How the waste is handled and ultimately disposed of is a challenge that will not disappear. We aren’t going anywhere, either. Medical Waste Pros can be your source for service solutions that meet your needs and overcome any challenges that come your way. Call us at (888) 755-6370. We offer free quotes for medical waste disposal services and training programs if you fill out our contact form.