Product Design for the Circular Economy: Q and A with Sterilis

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Healthcare facilities in the US generate millions of pounds of medical waste every year. Most of that infectious material gets picked up by trucks, hauled away, and incinerated in a process that environmental groups say produces toxic emissions and ash residues. Enter Sterilis, a company based in Boxborough, Massachusetts, that makes a device for handling the waste safely onsite.

Their self-contained portable machine sterilizes waste for 30 minutes using steam and then grinds it into a confetti material. That step reduces the waste volume by 80%, according to the company. From there, the ground material can be safely transported and even recycled.

“We can take highly infectious waste that is handled with kid gloves and transform it into benign sterilized waste,” says Sterilis CEO Bob Winskowicz. He adds that the company wants to identify more secondary uses for that waste. “The circular economy is evolving for us and we’re very excited about it.”

This summer the Sterilis device won an Environmental Leader Award. One of the judges highlighted how the product addresses the enormous medical waste problem. “The ability to reduce the volume and danger earlier in the medical waste life-cycle impacts downstream handling issues and costs,” the judge commented.

We recently caught up with Winskowicz and Sterilis president and CFO Jeff Bell to learn about their process for designing and developing a sustainable device.

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