Make the most of waste by the Auckland Council

Single-use medical devices get another lease on life

Entrepreneurial venture diverts health sector waste from landfill

Published: Friday 22 January 2021


A desire to eliminate the growing environmental and financial waste in New Zealand’s healthcare sector led young engineer, Oliver Hunt, to start Medsalv.

Medsalv re-processes used single-use medical devices from hospitals, previously destined for landfill.  After a rigorous testing and inspection routine, suitable devices are reprocessed and returned to hospitals for safe clinical re-use.  For hospitals, reprocessed devices cost considerably less than purchasing new devices, with significantly reduced waste disposal costs an added saving. 

The Christchurch-based company is leading change in both public and private Auckland Hospitals with the help of a grant from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund (WMIF). 

“The level of medical waste generated in New Zealand, and around the world, is huge. It’s not a visible or widely talked about problem simply because you don’t see a skip full of medical waste sitting around like you do in the construction sector,” Hunt says.

“We estimate more than 1700 tonnes of re-usable medical waste goes to landfill each year, and some of it hasn’t even been used – products with expired sterilisation dates get scrapped too.

“Despite being labelled as single-use, many medical devices can be reprocessed and re-used. New Zealand imports 97 per cent of its medical equipment, so by reprocessing here, Medsalv is providing numerous benefits to the country in addition to our core mission of sustainability.”

The idea to start Medsalv developed from a conversation with Hunt’s uncle, a well-known Christchurch surgeon.

“We were talking about how much money is spent on healthcare. He told me the amount of money spent was not the issue – what the health sector needed was to find ways to be more sustainable and cost-efficient.

“He showed me some unused, ‘single-use’ medical devices that had passed their sterilisation date and told me I should look at re-sterilising them and selling them back to hospitals.  That saw the germination of the idea.”

Medsalv now operates programmes with a number of private and public hospitals, including three in Auckland. Hunt says the WMIF funding helped Medsalv buy reusable containers so that used devices could to be picked up from across Auckland and transported to Christchurch in the most sustainable way.  Funding also helped increase capacity at the Christchurch plant to cope with the quantity of used medical devices received from Auckland.

The young entrepreneur says he has further expansion plans for Auckland to increase both the number of hospitals using Medsalv’s services, as well as increasing the volume of devices collected from existing customers.  The goal is to help all northern region DHB’s be more environmentally and financially sustainable by the end of the year. 

Hunt says he is also working on improving the sustainability of Medsalv’s own operations, such as designing a carbon-zero collection and delivery system.

Single-use medical devices get another lease on life (1)
Oliver Hunt

Have you got a great zero-waste idea?

Applications open on 1 September 2019 for grants of up to $50,000 from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund (WMIF).

If you represent a business, local iwi, or an education or community group with a project that will help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, you could be eligible to apply.

Visit the Auckland Council website, email, or call (09) 301 0101 to find out more.