Researchers at the University of York have concluded that PyroPure (UK) technology has the potential to transform the way in which hazardous waste is destroyed in clinical environments and say pharmacists, manufacturers and hospitals throughout the UK should consider trialling the system.
The announcement follows a six month Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership project in which a team of leading scientists from the University’s Environment Department and Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectroscopy confirmed that the system helped to destroy active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) found within pharmaceutical waste on-site.
A total of 17 of the most thermally resistant APIs were selected for the trial, which revealed that PyroPure technology destroys over 99 per cent of APIs in 10 of the 17 tested and an average of 94 per cent of the ‘worst case’ pharmaceuticals.
Professor Alistair Boxall of the University’s Environment Department and former member of the DEFRA Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee headed the study. On the future of PyroPure as an alternative to high temperature incineration, he comments:
“There are big concerns over the negative impacts of pharmaceuticals on the natural environment. Inappropriate disposal of pharmaceuticals and emissions from manufacturing sites are thought to be important contributors to these impacts. Our work demonstrates that PyroPure could help reduce the levels of pharmaceuticals in rivers and streams and have big benefits for ecosystem health. The system also provides a range of other environmental and economic benefits that could radically change how waste of this nature is collected and destroyed going forwards. With PyroPure technology, hazardous waste and controlled substances no longer need to be transported across the country to incineration facilities, thus reducing the associated costs, carbon emissions and risks associated with moving waste from its point of origin to its point of disposal.”
Currently in the UK, pharmaceutical wastes are only disposed of in large-scale, high-temperature incinerators, which can be up to 200 miles away from where the waste is generated. The Environment Agency has previously indicated that PyroPure, which relies on pyrolysis, a thermochemical decomposition process using high temperatures and an absence of oxygen, followed by catalytic conversion to clean and convert the gases, could be the first viable alternative to high-temperature incineration for pharmaceutical wastes.
On the trial’s success, Peter Selkirk, PyroPure Ltd’s Executive Chairman, adds: “This is a huge step forward for PyroPure technology and the healthcare sector. For too long now, we have been overly dependent on incineration as the only viable route in which to dispose of hazardous waste. Not only is it expensive but it’s also open to security breaches, particularly when the waste needs to be transported long distances. Now that PyroPure is a proven technology I’m confident that this breakthrough will pave the way for a new approach to waste disposal and irrevocably change the model for waste collection within clinical environments across the world.”
The trial, which formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between PyroPure Ltd and the University, also revealed how on-site energy recovery during the PyroPure process is at least 75 per cent compared with 20 per cent for a high-temperature incinerator.
Each PyroPure unit is the size of a chest freezer. The user simply opens the unit’s lid and places the waste within the chamber before initiating the process of pyrolysis to destroy it.