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World First Optical Waste-Sorting for Swedish Hospital

Östra Sjukhuset
21 June 2022

Östra Sjukhuset, one of four sites that form Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden’s largest university hospital, is setting the global standard in sustainable hospital waste and linen management after appointing Envac to install its optical linen sorting technology as part of a major modernisation programme.

It is the first time that optical sorting technology has been used to manage soiled linen in a hospital environment. Its inclusion, which follows Envac’s successful procurement bid, will significantly reduce time spent manually sorting soiled linen at the hospital’s off-site laundry. Time and cost savings made by reducing manual sorting is expected to be reinvested in other front-line services.


"The decision will make the hospital’s environment safer and cleaner for staff and patients, which has become even more important in the wake of the pandemic. This is a huge step forward for one of the biggest hospitals in Sweden and one that will certainly showcase the possibilities now open to hospitals around the world.”


– Magnus Sjöstrand
Senior Sales Manager & Healthcare Solutions Specialist, Envac



Envac’s Innovative Vacuum Technology


Envac’s pneumatic waste collection system will collect bagged waste in inlets before transporting it, via vacuum technology, along a pipe network installed within the hospital’s walls. The pipe network will replace the hospital’s existing automatic transportation system infrastructure, which has served the hospital since the 1960s.

When the inlets are full, the colour-coded bags of used linen - with each colour denoting a specific linen stream - will be transported to a purpose-built collection station housed within the hospital’s basement and automatically placed on conveyor belts. As the bagged linen moves along the belts, it is scanned by optical colour readers that determine where each bag belongs and automatically directed to the correct linen cart before being sent to the laundry facility.


The Six Year Upgrade Project


The installation is scheduled to start during 2022 and expected to be completed by 2028. During this period, the hospital will continue to develop new buildings in and around the site. On completion, the pipe network hidden within the hospital will be 2,463 metres long, serve 129 waste inlets located throughout the hospital and manage one general waste stream and two linen streams, which include staff linen and patient linen.

Magnus Sjöstrand, Senior Sales Manager & Healthcare Solutions Specialist at Envac, comments: “Envac has always been in the vanguard when it comes to developing innovative hospital waste solutions. Indeed, Envac was originally launched in 1961 specifically for hospitals. So, whilst I am not surprised that it is our technology that is, once again, spearheading change within a hospital environment, I am incredibly proud. The decision will make the hospital’s environment safer and cleaner for staff and patients, which has become even more important in the wake of the pandemic. This is a huge step forward for one of the biggest hospitals in Sweden and one that will certainly showcase the possibilities now open to hospitals around the world.”


Ever-increasing Standards for Care Infrastructure


Göran Lindahl, Associate Professor for the Division of Building Design at the Chalmers University of Technology is an acclaimed academic on the topic of designing hospital environments. 

On Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s developments, he adds: “There are now more demands on a hospital’s infrastructure than ever before, including technological requirements and upholding high sustainability standards. The challenge, therefore, is to meet these demands in a way that does not compromise healthcare requirements and that also adds value to the overall hospital experience. To do this effectively, we must utilise technologies and systems that complement healthcare needs. The range of solutions stretches from basic processes such as waste and linen collection to more complex logistical networks. It’s great to see firms pushing the boundaries and new technological solutions being integrated in hospital designs.”

Other innovative technologies that have been selected by the hospital as part of its modernisation programme include self-driving trucks, and an updated and expanded pipe mailing system, which will continue to quickly and efficiently transport drugs around the hospital. 

Emerging smart-buildings and the retrofitting of older properties is a growing industry in order to tackle current and future concerns for the sustainability of our facilities. Could future buildings produce their own electricity using oat husks? That’s just one of the many innovative ideas being developed to help future-proof our building stock.

Keep up to date with our Smart Buildings & Technology category to hear about the how the latest advances in property construction and management tech are shaping the connected cities of tomorrow.


Picture: The CGI rendition shows the upgraded Sahlgrenska University Hospital that will include Envac’s pneumatic waste collection and optical sorting technology. Image credit: Sahlgrenska University Hospital & Envac.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 21 June 2022


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