One of the most iconic images in the environmental movement came in 1988, when so much medical waste washed ashore in New York and New Jersey that beaches had to close.
How much has changed as of today, the 40th Earth Day?
Some people are finding opportunity in it.
The company's process sterilizes, shreds, and then compresses bloody gauze and other medical waste into pellets that can be used in cement and have the same energy potential as coal.
Until now its business has been in the collection of medical waste, mailers and logistical services that take waste from doctors and dentists offices so they no longer need deal with it.
With PELLA-DRX, Sharps sees this collection of medical waste the way a steel mill might see the collection of coal and iron, only that collection is a profit center. It can now view medical waste as its raw material, PELLA-DRX as the result of its manufacturing process.
Sharp is headed by Bernard Kunik, a former dentist with a long-time interest in needle disposal. The company is located about 3 miles southwest of the Texas Medical Center, one of the largest producers of medical waste in the country.
If Sharp can scale its process it has a lot of raw material to collect. India dumps half its medical waste into landfills and incinerates the rest. China sees medical waste incineration as a key to improving environmental standards. Incineration is not as clean a process as its advocates suggest. Medical waste incinerators are a big cause of air pollution, for instance.
If we can turn a problem into a feedstock we have a technology we can export. Sharp may not have the ultimate answer, but it is working seriously on the problem.
Happy Earth Day.