AURORA | With two hospitals treating thousands of patients a day and a third hospital in the works, the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora is the biggest hub of medical activity in the state.
It also likely generates more medical waste than anywhere else in Colorado.
Beverly Hanstrom, president of Colorado Medical Waste, sees that mountain of medical waste as a prime opportunity for her company, which moved to Aurora from Lakewood in July.
“That’s where we wanted to be, right in the thick of things,” Hanstrom said from the company’s new headquarters near East 30th Avenue and Peoria Street.
The new site is less than a mile north of the campus, and Hanstrom is hoping that short jaunt up Peoria will make the company an attractive place for hospitals, doctor’s offices and bioscience companies looking to dispose of their waste.
And, in addition to their close proximity to several sources of medical waste, Hanstrom said the company has a new technology that reduces the volume of medical waste by about 90 percent, and does so in a more environmentally friendly way than most medical waste procedures.
The company recently installed a state-of-the-art machine that treats waste with ozone gas and grinds it up into a confetti-like substance, Hanstrom has nicknamed the hulking machine “Oz,” short for ozone.
The machine is rare, Hanstrom said, and nobody else in the state has one.
“We are introducing it to Colorado,” she said.
Most medical waste today is steam treated, then dumped into a landfill. Other wastes, including some from chemotherapy and other treatments, can’t be safely dumped in a landfill so it’s trucked to another state and incinerated. Burning the waste creates greenhouse gasses, and steaming it, while it renders it clean, doesn’t reduce the volume dumped into landfills, Hanstrom said.
Hanstrom said Colorado Medical Waste’s new technology not only reduces the volume by 90 percent, but it doesn’t have any emissions. The ozone gas breaks down into simple oxygen.
That also means there isn’t much of a smell associated with the process, she said, something that means the company can comfortably operate in a bustling urban setting, as opposed to miles away from the Anschutz Campus. “Medical waste facilities in the past have been outside of city limits because they are one disgusting smell,” she said.
The Oz machine emits a smell similar to the way the air smells after a rain storm, she said.
One thing is for sure, there is plenty of medical waste — which includes things like used syringes, pharmaceutical containers and even some radioactive waste generated by chemotherapy treatments — coming out of Anschutz every day.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado alone, Elizabeth Whitehead, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the hospital has generated more than 100,000 pounds of medical waste from the start of the year through July. That figure breaks down to more than a pound of waste for everyday a patient spends at Children’s.
In addition to working with local hospitals, doctor’s offices and bioscience companies, Hanstrom said Colorado Medical Waste will have services for people who generate medical waste at home. That means patients like diabetics who have lots of syringes that need to be disposed. One of the rooms at the new facility at 3131 Oakland St. is dedicated for those types of dropoffs.
Today, Hanstrom said some patients struggle with disposing of their medical waste, particularly their sharps, so she hopes to offer a place where people can safely dispose of those items.
Hanstrom said the company has six employees today, and plans to grow that number substantially after the “Oz” machine is up and running, hopefully sometime later this month.