Newster healthcare waste treatment technology
July 23, 2019
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Researchers have found that adding plastic medical waste to concrete can make the concrete more durable and waterproof.


The use of medical waste in concrete could prevent 5100 tonnes of plastic ending up in landfill every year.

With more than 12,000 Australians on dialysis treatment, Dr Katherine Barraclough, of Royal Melbourne Hospital, welcomes the findings. “For safety reasons, both the tubes that carry the blood and the dialyser [the part of the machine that cleans the blood] are made of plastic designed for single use only,” she says. “With increasing numbers of people requiring dialysis in Australia and worldwide, we need to work out ways to reduce the costs of care delivery, as well as play our part in ensuring a healthy environment for future generations.”

Nicholas Aberle, of environmental group Environment Victoria, supports any idea that could use up the “staggering” amount of waste generated by the medical industry. “This sounds like an interesting solution to a big problem,” he says. “Concrete is a very resource-intensive product – in terms of both energy and raw materials – and if we can make it last longer then that’s a good step forward. I think the next steps should be to come up with new ways of recycling or reusing concrete so we don’t need to make so much of it from scratch.”

Ken Slattery, the CEO of Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia, agrees with Mr Aberle that, environmentally, the finding is positive. “It’s good news that they are saving 5000 tonnes of plastic waste,” he says. “Concrete gives off CO₂ so the entire concrete industry is committed to reducing it’s environmental impact with a raft of different approaches.”

However, Mr Slattery questions the technical relevance of the findings. “People have been putting plastic fibres in concrete for a long time to reduce the amount of fine cracking,” he says. “It’s not going to bring anything unique to the concrete industry at all, and may indeed provide a few more challenges in terms of whether the concrete is treated and how it might need to be handled.”

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Reference: Howard, Melissa.”University report indicates future homes could be made from medical waste.” Domain, Nov 8 2017.