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[GreenYes] Talking trash: A new way to treat all waste the 2004 article

Talking trash: A new way to toss bio-medical waste

It's a dirty job, but Murry Vance thinks he has the clean answer.

Orlando Business Journal - July 2, 2004

The reason: Since the early 1990s, environmental concerns have targeted the traditional method of incinerating bio-medical waste. That method can produce toxic emissions and create negative health impacts, they say.

Enter Murry Vance.

The Central Florida inventor and entrepreneur believes he has found the answer in plasma arc technology.

Using electrical energy to zap even the most hazardous and infectious medical waste back to its basic elemental forms, plasma technology is gaining attention in the medical industry as a safer and environmentally friendly way to dispose of all medical waste from body parts, needles and bloodied garments to paper and plastics.

In fact, Florida Hospital-Waterman in Tavares recently entered into a five-year agreement with Bio Arc Inc., a subsidiary of Tavares-based Arc Technologies Group, to use Vance's plasma arc reduction unit.

"The plasma arc technology provides the ideal solution for the problems health care institutions face with disposing of waste," says Dr. Jaime Carrizosa, an infectious disease specialist from Florida Hospital and a member of Arc Technologies' board. "It's a totally environmentally sound process and offers easy disposal of the waste."

Trash talk

Disposing of biomedical waste is a dirty -- and expensive -- job.

According to Jack Glezen, president and founder of Michigan-based Environmental Research Associates, hospitals generate about 30 pounds of waste per patient day. Depending on size, that adds up to between 1.1 million tons and 3.5 million tons of waste a year.

About 90 percent of that garbage is general waste. The rest is considered hazardous: Dubbed "red-bag waste," it has to be disposed of carefully to ensure residual infections are destroyed.

In the past, the waste was hauled off to incinerators, but at a hefty price. While general trash was taken away and incinerated at about 2 cents per pound, hazardous waste cost hospitals between 20 to 30 cents per pound, says Glezen.

There also was an environmental price. Burned medical waste emits toxic substances and known carcinogens. In fact, incinerators were found to be responsible for 8 percent of total national mercury emissions in the United States in 1989.

As a result, that year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency beefed up the rules regulating incinerator emissions, cutting allowed levels between 75 percent and 98 percent. When the cuts began, 2,400 biomedical incinerators were burning up trash across the nation. Today, that number is about 80.


Alternatives have been developed.

Innovators are sterilizing the waste with high-pressure steam or microwaves to eradicate the most infectious diseases and microbes before shredding the waste for disposal.

Plasma arc technology is the newest kid on the incineration block. According to Vance, the technology is a waste-to-energy process, which uses a cloud of inert, hot gases and an energy source to destroy waste. Within minutes, 50 pounds of waste is reduced to a little less than 8 ounces of residual, environmentally friendly elements that can be flushed into the sewage system, and steam that can be used to fuel boilers and heat water.

Medical experts agree plasma arc technology is an important development for the industry. In addition to the traditional environmental issues of bio-medical waste disposal, the medical industry now also has to consider the use of this waste in acts of bioterrorism, says Carrizosa. The reason: Bacteria and infections can remain on incinerated biomedical waste and be captured for other uses.

But plasma arc technology eliminates those concerns.

Burn, baby, burn

Vance worked on the plasma arc reduction unit for 13 years, investing more than $13 million in the project from Arc Technologies' 280 shareholders.

During research and development, Vance had two small, clinical units at the Central Florida Blood Bank, along with test units in Miami and New Orleans.

Vance's first production unit was installed at Florida Hospital-Waterman 60 days ago, where it disposes of all the hospital's red-bag hazardous waste and confidential patient waste products. The unit destroys 600 pounds of waste per hour, and is run for four-and-a-half hours every other day.

While Vance continues to market his plasma arc unit domestically, it also is receiving international attention. Acciona, an environmental management firm in Spain, has signed an export deal for 150 units over the next three years.

Further, Vance may market the unit to other industries. He has identified 27 types of waste the unit can destroy, including agricultural waste, sewage sludge and low-level radioactive waste.

"I created a device that would handle any kind of waste," notes Vance. "It can process anything."

 AND It is not a chemical reduction process like FIRE it is nuclear like in 4th order heat. And it is CHEAPER than all current recycling models

Get a sneak peek of the all-new

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