Creative Solutions for Healthcare Recycling

August 1, 2012
Jennifer Markarian

Jennifer Markarian is manufacturing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.

The news that the London 2012 Olympic Games aims to be the first Olympics to be “zero waste to landfill” is an indication of the growing importance of finding new ways to fulfill the old mantra of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”.

The news that the London 2012 Olympic Games aims to be the first Olympics to be “zero waste to landfill” is an indication of the growing importance of finding new ways to fulfill the old mantra of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”.  Recycling is even finding new applications in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries as more companies seek to reduce waste.

A new technology from National Bulk Equipment (NBE), the ProductSaver system, separates powdered or liquid package contents, such as over-the-counter medications, from the packaging material at the manufacturer or packager’s facility. The contents are then disposed of, but the packaging can be recovered for recycling.

Garments and gloves from cleanrooms and laboratories can also be collected and recycled.  Kimberly-Clark Professional, which specializes in contamination control for cleanrooms and laboratories, started a recycling program with recycling expert TerraCycle last fall.  Life-sciences manufacturer Life Technologies Corporation, for example, is piloting a program to recycle nitrile gloves. Pharmaceutical Technology will be hosting a live webcast, “Path to Zero Landfill: Learn How One Company is Leading the Way”, on Tuesday, August 21, in which these three companies will discuss their program.

TerraCycle, an entrepreneurial New Jersey-based company founded in 2001, has a unique method of achieving their mission to prove that there is no such thing as “waste” but that everything can be recycled or reused.  To collect difficult-to-recycle, post-consumer, consumer-goods waste, such as drink pouches or single-serving coffee containers, TerraCycle organizes brigades of individuals or consumer groups that collect the used packages; the brigades are sponsored by the packaged goods companies whose packages are being collected.  TerraCycle converts the recycled material into new products or sells it to other companies for conversion.  The garments and gloves from cleanrooms and laboratries, for example, can be used to make plastic lumber for park benches and picnic tables.  A little creativity goes a long way.

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