The Sterimelt machine

A state-of-the-art machine at Queen’s Hospital Burton that turns unwanted packaging and contaminated clinical waste into reusable plastic has won an industry award.

The Sterimelt machine has been awarded the Sustainable Achievement Award at the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM) Awards, whilst also being highly commended in a second category for Product Innovation.

The machine, which is one of only two of its kind in the world, works by taking single-use plastics that are used to package sterile instruments in operating theatres and patient bed transfers sheets, and then thermally densifying them into reusable blocks of plastic – as opposed to sending them to the incinerator.

Since the Sterimelt machine was installed in March 2018, almost 60,000 tray wraps have been used across the Burton hospital sites, equating to 16 tonnes of polypropylene blocks. These can then be sold to external suppliers to be turned into items such as tool boxes and plastic signs.

Natalie Roddis, Waste and Sustainability Officer at the Burton campuses of the UHDB Trust, said: “It feels great to have won one award and to have been so highly commended in another category. It’s all a bit of a blur! We were hoping to win one but we didn’t really expect to, so it’s brilliant as it has repaid the Trust’s faith in having the machine installed.”

The Sterimelt machine is produced by the Thermal Compaction Group, with TCG Technical and Compliance Manager Tim Hourahine expressing his delighted in seeing the team at Queen’s Hospital Burton awarded for their work: “We’re proud, absolutely, for the team in Burton to be recognised in the two categories. To win one award is fantastic, but to be so highly commended in a second category with so many other strong contenders is a huge accolade. For us, it’s not about awards; we want to address the issue of single-use plastics and work through the process to save so much going to be incinerated.”

Speaking about what the future holds for Burton’s Sterimelt machine, Natalie added: “This machine can be such an asset to the Trust and as we start to use it to recycle more materials, we can reinvest more revenue back into the NHS to further improve our sustainability.”