Who first asked this question, which was so crucial to the future of waste management, is not absolutely clear. However, we are certain about who the four people were around the table at Sollefteå Hospital at this decisive moment at the end of the 1950s: they were engineer Torsten Karefelt, hospital construction manager, Olle Genberg, chief architect, Sten Olsson, plumbing consultant, and Olof H Hallström, owner and CEO of Centralsug AB.
They had decided to meet at Sollefteå Hospital to negotiate a new vacuum cleaning system when suddenly discussions took another turn. “If we can vacuum dust from every corner of the hospital through one system, why can’t we do the same thing with the waste?” Nobody had thought about this before and nobody knew if it was even possible. But Olof Hallström picked up the ball.
Technical obstacles - a challenge
As a true technological optimist, no technical problem was too difficult for Hallström to solve. A few years earlier, using money he had inherited from the sale of his father’s farm, he acquired the company Ingvar Gustafsson AB, which later was renamed Centralsug AB. The company specialised in the constructionand installation of central vacuum cleaner systems. With this experience in his pocket, Olof Hallström retuned to Stockholm to work out an answer to a question that still seemed utopian to many people.
Hallström kept his word and a couple of weeks later returned with drawings of a waste suction system for the hospital. The rest is history.
In 1961, Centralsug AB installed the first waste suction system in the world at Sollefteå Hospital.
Inventor and entrepreneur
Per-Olof Ekström, a key person in the company, started to work at Centralsug as early as 1959. Before he died, he spoke of his memories of the early years. “Olof Hallström often had unrealistic ideas which could not be implemented.” But Hallström succeeded in creating an extremely creative environment, which resulted in several unique technological solutions that are today the basis of the technology.
“Our design meetings often lasted long into the night. Olof Hallström used to take us to a nearby restaurant, where we could continue our discussions. It was extremely stimulating.” However, in 1966 Hallström decided to sell the vacuum cleaning and waste suction business, because he believed greater financing capacity was required to pursue the highly technological development. The new owner was the largest pipe supplier in the Nordic countries, Calor & Sjögren AB.