Making surgical instruments from medical waste
In Dutch hospitals, over a million kilos of blue ‘wrapping paper’ is used each year to keep medical instruments sterile. After they have been used, they create an enormous mountain of waste. TU Delft researchers Tim Horeman and Bart van Straten, in collaboration with the Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam among others, devised a method to melt down this blue polypropylene wrapping paper and turn it into a new medical device. A growing number of Dutch hospitals are adopting this approach. An article about the method was published in the Journal for Cleaner Production.
Horeman and Van Straten worked with waste management company Renewi to collect the blue wrapping paper from operating rooms at several hospitals. They then conducted research into the relationship between the material properties, the effects of heating at various temperatures and the processed waste. This led to the development of what are called instrument openers: tools to keep medical instruments that contain a hinge open during the cleaning process. In addition, the researchers designed handles for a new line of reusable and steerable instruments for advanced keyhole surgery.
Hospital care contributes 7% to the total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands. The rapidly growing mountain of waste produced by hospitals is not only caused by a growing patient population but also by the increased use of disposable products. Melting down medical waste into a new raw material is one of the ways we can tackle the global hospital waste problem.
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Tim Horeman, biomedical researcher: ‘With this method, our research team has created a circular chain that fully coordinates the technical, medical and logistical processes. This is the only way to process waste into high-quality new medical instruments, for example, without having to use additives. And this is just the beginning as far as we are concerned.’
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