A new Italian machine appears set to bring about a revolution in the treatment and disposal of infectious and dangerous medical waste – and it may soon also prove to be a vital weapon in the fight against Ebola.
The Newster NW10, imported to South Africa by Alloro Africa Enviro Services, may well be the final solution to the problem of illegally or accidentally dumped infectious medical waste and the dangers it poses to people, especially children.
It already promises to dramatically ease the task of handling infectious waste at large health care facilities, including any materials and waste products that had been exposed to lethal organisms such as the Ebola virus.
Handling and disposing of items such as bedding, clothing and used medical supplies that had been exposed to deadly infections have become one of the greatest challenges facing medical personnel engaged in combating outbreaks.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa clearly illustrated the problem of dealing with such items.
The illegal dumping of medical waste has also taken on serious proportions in the country, costing local authorities millions to clean up. Last year, it was estimated that there had been 985 illegal dumps in Cape Town alone according to a report published in the Cape Argus last year.
Over the past decade, there had been numerous reported incidents of medical waste dumped illegally, even in places to which children had access.
Cleaning up illegal dumps was costing the city as much as R200 000 a day, a city spokesperson said at the time.
The first Newster NW10 machine, imported from Italy, has been undergoing extensive testing in Cape Town and the results appear to have borne out the manufacturer’s claims.
The machine has now been independently certified in accordance with the national Department of Environmental Affairs, said Alloro Africa Enviro Services director Carlo Bovetti.
“The response to the machine has been overwhelming and, in conjunction with top South African scientists, we are currently discussing doing feasibility studies for the destruction in loco of medical waste from isolation wards where patients could be treated for deadly infections such as Ebola,” Bovetti said.
“This waste definitely cannot be transported on our public roads.
“The World Health Organisation has assumed a new aim and slogan in their approach to the handling of infectious waste – ‘zero kilometres from the cradle to the grave’. This means they do not want the waste to be transported in an infectious state. The Newster system offers exactly that.”
The machine has been designed for hospitals and other health care facilities where medical waste is produced in large quantities. It is powered by three-phase electrical power obtained from the health care facility’s own power supply and is simple to use, requiring basic operator training.
Medical waste is placed in the machine according to the capacity of the specific model of machine and after a period it is automatically discharged, completely shredded, unrecognisable and sterilised.
The machine turns waste into homogeneous dehydrated granules, reducing initial volume by 75 percent approximately and its weight by 15 to 25 percent, depending on humidity in the waste to be treated.
“The Newster NW10 is environmentally completely safe. It is not an incinerator, it does not burn waste and independent environmental tests have proved that it does not give off harmful vapour,” Bovetti said. “It uses the friction of a high-speed blade to finely shred the waste and heat it uniformly to a temperature of exactly 150°C, which completely sterilises it and destroys any pathogens and/or viruses.
“Any medical waste, from used bandages, to syringes, cotton, everything, can be treated by this machine and the waste that comes out is a completely neutral, sterile shredded mass.”
Bovetti said the system was already in use in many parts of the world and was widely used in Europe.