Thursday, May 26, 2011

Debut Post... get excited

I've been kind of slacking on the whole blogging thing so far, but I'm turning things around. This is my second day in Kampala, and it has been quite an adventure already. Sometimes travel happens so smoothly, but this unfortunately was not one of those times. My first flight to Dallas to meet Michael was cancelled due to "operational reasons" and from there things just got out of control. To make a long story short, I missed all the flights of my first attempt to get to Kampala and had to rebook and start from square one three days later. On Tuesday night, I arrived in Kampala at 10:15 pm jet-lagged but relieved to have finally made it. I spent yesterday getting settled in and trying to stay awake mostly by just wandering the streets trying not to get hit by a boda boda. I managed to stay awake the whole day, and after some solid Indian food with the rest of the hostel, it was time to hit the hay.

Today has been my first day at the Technology for Tomorrow offices located at Makerere University, getting oriented with the place and meeting the people I'll be working with for the next eight weeks. It's been a day of planning and outlining the approach to our problem which is the testing of the gases emitted from the medical waste incinerators that T4T is developing. We travelled to two of the sights where testing will take place. They are hospitals in Nsambya and Rubaga where the T4T incinerators are already being used to dispose of infectious and sharps medical waste. To give a little idea of the problems medical waste disposal can cause I'm going to give a little history of the disposal problems the Nsambya hospital has had.

Years ago Nsambya began operations and built a large stone furnace that was going to burn all the waste produced by the hospital. Waste was all just piled into one big heap and then shoveled in to the furnace to be burned. There were several problems with this method. First, by indiscriminately shoveling in waste, there is no way to maintain any type of consistent incineration temperature, and monitoring toxic byproducts is near impossible. Temperatures high enough to appropriately dispose of medical waste were not being maintained, and huge amounts of toxic fumes were being released into the air. The smoke was so bad that nearby schools were having to close down during operation hours of the incinerator, and the surrounding neighborhood was seeking to sue the hospital for the harm the emissions were causing. Eventually this furnace was discontinued, and the hospital reverted to loading up wastes and shipping them out to trash dumps around the city. This caused even more problems in that infectious wastes were being scattered around the city and proper disposal would never happen, which is why it is technically illegal to move infectious waste from the sight of production. A third attempt was made to dispose of this waste by constructing a new fuel assisted incinerator. The gas powered burner was able to maintain higher temperatures, but smoking was still excessive, and fuel costs made operating the incinerator too expensive. Finally, Nsambya hospital heard of the incinerators being produced by T4T and ended up giving them a shot. The incinerator in operation now, the T4T Mak V incinerator, is 95 % smokeless and requires no fuel for operation. It can maintain incineration temperatures and still accomodate huge loads of waste. There have been no complaints from the community about the incinerator and waste is being disposed of more efficiently than ever.

If you made it through that perhaps long-winded account of medical waste disposal issues, hopefully you understand a little bit about what my my project is trying to accomplish. The goal of this project is to produce more stories just like that. We are trying to provide an affordable and efficient method to dispose of medical waste. Although there are several incinerators in operation, distribution of the incinerators is being hampered by the fact that there has been no official testing of the gas that is released by the incinerator. There are several organizations across Africa interested in this incinerator, but in order to get approval results of gas analyses need to be shown. This is where my specific role in the project comes in. I have provided T4T with the appropriate equipment to test the incinerators, and with the information gained from these tests either further improvements can be made until it meets the required specifications, or immediate approval can be granted and the incinerators will be ready for distribution all over Africa.

More to come....

- Stokes

P.S. hopefully pictures will be added to these post soon, so get excited for that!


  1. Aww! That was a sad story from Nsambya. Medical waste disposal is a great environmental concern. Since medical wastes are often harmful and infectious, it needs to be disposed of properly through a proper waste management system. Kind regards to you, Will! =)

    - Dollie Wessner

  2. That is an amazing story, Stokes. It is amazing how much we take things like medical waste disposal for granted. I am really eager to hear more about your travels to Kampala!

    Dexter |