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Medical trash is company's treasure: Bioservices Group Inc. has revamped an old technology to create a safe, effective and efficient hazardous waste incinerator.

A small North Bay biotechnology company has put a new spin on an old technology that treats the mounting problem of medical and chemical waste in the health-care industry.

Bioservices Group Inc. (BGI) is promoting a steam treatment technology adapted from a system used in the United States meat packing industry. They have made some improvements to treat all forms of medical and infectious material.

The company's president and CEO Glenn Reynolds says his External Steam Agitation system is more efficient and cost effective than any conventional hospital autoclave (a sterilizer using high-pressure steam).

In Ontario, his ESA treatment systems have already found their way into hospitals in Thunder Bay and Peterborough, but the 41-year-old entrepreneur has his sights set on the larger global market.

During 15 years of experience in the North American hazardous and medical waste industry, Reynolds travelled the world installing medical waste treatment facilities for various companies, some of whom are his competitors today, before he decided to spin off into his own venture.

While working as a part-owner of a predecessor company, they began using an early version of ESA which was used in the rendering industry for the sterilization of meat products which Reynolds suggests, gruesomely, is not all that different from human tissue.

But despite the R & D they poured into the technology, the company experienced only mild success.

The system was an effective way to treat waste but there were some technical flaws including the make-up of the pressure vessel itself, which meant medical waste had to be manually loaded, "which is a no-no in the industry."

When he later formed Bioservices Group, he hooked up with the original North Carolina manufacturer and redesigned the system with more modern, automated controls.

"It's basically a pressure vessel with a redesigned arm assembly."

His ESA technology uses a jacketed pressure vessel that's equipped with an arm assembly attached to a motor drive shaft that rotates to grind and break up all forms of solid and liquid waste.

Steam is injected into the jacket and the heat is transmitted to the macerated waste.

Reynolds says the steam never comes in contact with the infectious waste content. Because medical waste has water content, "the indirect jacketed steam heats up the internal liquid content and creates a boiler system within itself."

With the mixer arm, the heat dissipation is greater.

"In a standard autoclave you're trying to penetrate a mound of stationary waste. This system mixes and breaks it up, introducing it to the hot walls and inside parameters (of) temperature and pressure."

To sterilize waste in an autoclave, temperatures of 135C and pressures between 40 and 50 PSI (pounds per square inch) are used over a 30-minute period. Because ESA mixes the contents over the entire process, all that's required for microbiological kill is only 121C and 21 PSI.

"We've created a better environment," says Reynolds.

As a fully self-contained unit, the infectious waste is contained from start to finish of the cycle allowing none of the effluents inside to escape through standard pre-vacuuming processes.

Among the many benefits he lists are a greater amount of sterilization and less residue at the end of the process.

Any plastics, pathological or liquid wastes are reduced to a mound of treated material that is biologically inert.

"The result is very similar to incinerated waste without the creation of furans and dioxins."

Reynolds says his system covers the "entire umbrella" of biomedical, anatomical and cytotoxic wastes, adding a Ministry of Environment official once described his technology as a "one-stop shop."

Globally, ESA technology is recognized for the ability to achieve sterility assurance levels and is regarded as one of the most effective treatment technologies of medical waste and the destruction of pathogens.

With the help of two equipment suppliers who manufacture the vessels, he does the design work, assembly and installation of the systems from his Romeo Court home office in North Bay.

His company produces five models large and small, ranging in price from $115,000 to $300,000.

Though Reynolds believes ESA may have some extended uses in the plastics, and pulp and paper industry, the medical waste remains a rapidly changing field due to more heightened environmental issues and consolidation within the sector.

Disposal giant Stericycle owns half of the treatment and collection facilities globally and controls about 75 percent of the North American market.

In areas where there's little competition for collecting and treating waste off-site, some budget-conscious hospitals are looking to cut costs by going back to on-site treatment.

Typically, all medical waste is incinerated, but since all Ontario hospital incinerators were to be closed in 2003, there is only one licensed incinerator to handle all of the province's waste.

This year, he's projecting more than $2 million in sales for his company by focusing his attention on American and international markets where ESA technology for the treatment of anatomical waste is more readily accepted.

In August, Reynolds was working on a project for the United Arab Emirates preparing for a large tender for a centralized treatment facility. Reynolds has been contracted by a company in Abu Dhabi to design and build a treatment facility.

He is also considering joining up with a chemical disinfectant company that is keenly interested in his technology and wants to offer a steam sterilization alternative.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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