It’s one of the great ironies of healthcare that efforts to make us healthier can also make us sicker.
Hospitals in Asia generate between 0.2 kg to 0.8 kg of waste per bed per day, amounting to millions of tons per year. In the age of COVID-19, this waste is itself a health hazard, and needs proper attention.
The go-to solution in most instances? Burn it.
But with greater awareness of climate change, incineration has become as much of a problem as a solution. It generates considerable pollution, not to mention it becoming increasingly inefficient and dangerous.
However, the incineration option can still have a place amid the plethora of disposal technologies now available – if done right.
Incineration without pollution
Thailand’s Hi-Tech Incineration Co Ltd (Hi-Tech Incineration) has been manufacturing incinerators for regional and local authorities for more than 20 years.
“We design, build and supply a lot of our products to hospitals and temples.” says Prin Isariyaphorn, director and second-generation owner of the company.
“These hospitals and temples are in communities where people live, work and play. So ensuring that our products are smoke-free and emissions-free is of utmost importance, and we’ve been doing this since the start.”
To minimize environmental impact, the incinerators are designed with two combustion chambers. Medical waste is first incinerated in the primary chamber. The gas remnants then pass into the secondary chamber where they undergo thermal decomposition, controlled air distribution and flue cleaning before being released into the atmosphere.
The process ensures clean and odorless emissions, says Isariyaphorn. “We want to be known for our environmental responsibility. All our incinerators exceed quality and emissions standards by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)”.
The approach is also winning praise from independent experts. “Hi-Tech Incineration’s products are strong, simple and function well in all situations.” says James Baker, Managing Director of Tamaraw Holdings. “They have also made headway in emissions compliance and overall safety, to ensure that they offer the best available solutions for their customers and the environment”.
Customising incinerators for greener burning
But the team certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. They are constantly exploring new processes and technologies to make the incinerators greener and more efficient, which Isariyaphorn calls a “win-win-win” – for Hi-Tech Incineration, its clients and the environment.
One example is the use of ceramic fiber walls for the incinerators. With its exceptionally low thermal conductivity, ceramic fiber allows heat within the incinerator to be sustained at the required temperature points for longer periods of time, which quickens the burning of the waste and minimises fuel usage while creating greater energy efficiency and significant cost savings.
And to make sure the products are completely fit for purpose, the company also actively engages with its customers and partners in the design and installation process.
“We go down to the hospitals and understand how much waste they generate.” says Isariyaphorn. “We then design and build incinerators of the right size and fit. Doing so allows the incinerators to be kept at work, burning the waste, for the optimal period of time. It also keeps fuel consumption, costs and exposure optimal.”
The company also provides training sessions for healthcare workers to equip them with the skills to handle medical waste safely. “Our systems are designed to minimise human handling. For instance, all of our incinerators have semi-automatic feeders. So healthcare workers don’t have to manually load the sealed (waste) bins into the incinerators”.
Strong after-sales support: the finishing touch
This attention to local detail and customer requirements is a significant feature of the product, according to Baker. “The key to providing a solution for medical and infectious medical waste is reliability and availability.” he says. “This can only be achieved by manufacturing equipment closely suited to the purpose, but also the maintenance and working practices of the target markets. All responsible companies have strong after-sales support – which is especially important in incineration where maintenance is key.”
This level of innovation and local service means that the future of incineration in waste disposal is far from burnt out. Cleaner, greener and safer technologies are making a difference, and Hi-Tech Incineration certainly has played a part in driving this progress.