SterAssure Processing received approval from the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) in March to process and sterilize medical waste, using its sustainable and green technology.
The Greenville-based company, which also hauls medical waste, reduces the carbon footprint by reducing the energy usage needed to sterilize the waste, says Ryan Hamsho, chief operating officer.
“We figure we have a 94 percent reduction in the carbon footprint over incineration,” says Mike McCuen, SterAssure’s president. McCuen and Hamsho formed the company in 2015. They have been working with DHEC for over a year to receive approval.
“Medical waste is a massive industry and it’s growing,” McCuen says. “In South Carolina there are more than 1,700 companies that generate about six million pounds a month of medical waste. We pick it up, sterilize it into a form that is accepted by the landfill.”
The most popular way to handle regulated medical waste is to incinerate it, but this method uses a significant amount of energy and it can contribute to pollution, Hamsho says.
“The carbon footprint of incineration is such that it has a huge impact on the environment,” he explains. “It’s a controversial method because of the byproduct.”
Another technology involves autoclave in which a vessel containing medical waste uses steam to sterilize the material.
“There is a problem with that process in the sense that if you pile a significant amount of waste into the device, it’s compacted together and forms layers of insulation so that the steam, which is meant to sterilize the waste, does not penetrate all surfaces, and you don’t know if everything is sterilized,” Hamsho says. “That’s a big risk because it is all taken to the landfill. But it has to be sterilized first.”
SterAssure’s novel technology uses a process that heats water in a vessel that is loaded with medical waste. When the water reaches a certain temperature, a mechanism churns the waste with water penetrating all surfaces of the waste. When the water is drained from the tank, a large portion of the water goes into a holding tank where it stays warm and fresh water is added to it, Hamsho explains.
“So it doesn’t take as much time to heat the water, which is part of the green aspect,” he says. “Everything is sterilized, and we can do three cycles per hour – very efficient.”
The finished waste product is more sterile than household water running down the sink, and it uses no chemicals, which means it can be accepted into any public landfill, McCuen says.
Through its hauling business, SterAssure has developed relationships with funeral homes, allergy clinics, urgent care centers, including Doctor’s Care, cosmetic procedure businesses, and others that generate medical waste.
“We are fair with our pricing to the local community because we want to partner to build the business and give back to the community,” Hamsho says.