Recycling plastic turnings from implant manufacturing
We make implant materials from ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene. The components are milled from solid white, plastic barstock, resulting in scrap plastic turnings that are moist with coolant residue. This moisture has posed problems for recycling firms, and for many years, the bagged plastic turnings have been disposed of in landfill. In 2015, additional on-site waste sorting enabled us to identify a recycling partner with the ability to reuse the plastic turnings during the manufacture of sheet grade plastic, which has countless industrial applications. The estimated annual volume will be 68 tonnes.
Packaging waste reduction for metals recycling
Our orthopaedic products are composed of several metals: titanium, cobalt chrome, and various grades of stainless steel. We collect, sort, package, and send all of our metal turnings and excess solids offsite for recycling. Despite our efforts to recycle these metals, the packaging materials used to store and transport them contribute a significant waste stream in their own right. In 2014, the cardboard boxes, tape, wooden pallets, and steel 55-gallon drums generated an extra 24 tonnes of waste.
We eliminated the use of disposable packaging materials by partnering with our metals recycling contractor and obtaining plastic containers, capable of years of reuse. What’s more, their design eliminates the need for wooden pallets for transport.
Additionally, to facilitate better metals sorting and identification, we purchased 50 new 55-gallon drums and use large, colour-coded stickers to prominently identify each metal type.
Construction debris diverted from landfill to recycling
As our manufacturing footprint continues to increase, so does the need for physical expansion and re-modelling of existing space.
The construction debris from our two manufacturing sites consists largely of wood (including large crates), metal, and a small amount of concrete and cardboard. In January 2015, we switched from a landfill disposal company to a facility that processes construction debris and sorts out bulk waste types, diverting approximately 49 tonnes of waste away from landfill.
Wooden items such as crates are ground up and ultimately used as mulch material. Metals, cardboard, and plastics are sorted out, bulked, and sold to recyclers for reprocessing.
The success of these recycling and reduction initiatives has inspired us to identify other potential areas for waste reduction, and we are excited to continue the journey as we reduce our impact on our environment.
These initiatives were submitted for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Environment & Energy Awards in 2015. Smith & Nephew was runner up in the Waste Management category.