Innovation

North Bristol NHS Trust employs automated waste system

North Bristol National Health Service (NHS) Trust has rolled out a new automated waste collection system using containers from bin manufacturer Taylor and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from automative specialists Swisslog.

As part of the £430-million Southmead Hospital redevelopment (which fully opened in May of this year), it was decided that AGVs would be introduced to transport waste, linen, food, consumables, pharmaceuticals and instrumentation across the 115,000 square metre Brunel Building site to free up portering time to deliver patient-facing services.

As such, the hospital approached Taylor with a brief to create an 800-litre capacity container that could sit atop Swisslog’s TransCar® AGV and had the capability of keeping several waste streams segregated at any one time.

Taylor’s research and development team created a bespoke version of its Duo Bin, a split-lid bin resting on a dividing plate, to enable the collection of two waste streams within one footprint, and a smaller version of its standard container.

The hospital now has 12 AGVs responsible for transporting 158 Taylor containers throughout the hospital. 

How the system works

The Swisslog system is controlled via a central system, which tracks where all the AGVs are and includes a pre-programmed route system around the hospital.

When a container is needed, staff can summon the AGV for a specific job (i.e. to collect waste and take it to the disposal holds), and the AGV then navigates the hospital via a pre-programmed route, positions itself under the Taylor bin, before lifting the bin into place and automatically transporting it to its desired location.

The system also has laser navigation to identify and navigate obstacles and can summon elevators and open and close doors as required, by communicating with the hospital’s systems over a wireless network.

The hospital has also implemented a magnetic labelling system, based on three colour-coded magnetic A4 posters: black for landfill waste; blue for recyclables; and yellow for offensive waste.

Once the containers have been summoned, a magnetic poster is placed onto the front of the bin, alerting staff throughout the building to the waste type currently being collected. 

‘Results have been fantastic’

Esther Coffin-Smith, Sustainable Development Manager at North Bristol NHS Trust, stated: “The results have been fantastic; before the AGVs were available there was a significant amount of manual handling both when moving bins from the collection points and sorting waste at the point of disposal. Now, two receptacles handle three waste streams and waste no longer needs to be touched once it has been placed into a bin.

“To improve segregation we’ve also introduced magnetic pictorial bin labels, which enable hospital staff to easily identify which waste [stream] goes where. Without metal bins, we could never have adopted such an easy and effective labelling system. We’ve also worked with Taylor and our compactor provider, Dicom, to ensure that the bins are fully compatible with our waste management equipment.” 

Jamie Roberts, Technical Engineering Manager at Taylor, commented: “Not only does Southmead have their own tailor-made containers, but they also conform to EN840 standards having been through our rigorous in-house testing scheme, the only one in the UK.

“Automated waste collection within the healthcare sector represents a simple and tangible way in which hospitals can increase efficiency, save money, minimise health and safety risks and add value to their healthcare programme.

“Having created a truly unique product for the sector that’s proving to be a success, we now expect this to become a key product within the Taylor portfolio.”

Watch a video about how the Taylor/Swisslog system works below.