The Biopharma Single-use Product Recycling Program – a collaboration between MilliporeSigma and Triumvirate Environmental – collects, shreds, sterilises and recycles disposable plastics for the biopharmaceutical industry.
The program has facilitated the recycling of single-use bags, tubing and connectors, and cartridge and capsule filters at Triumvirate’s plant in Pennsylvania since 2015.
The initiative responds to increased demand from companies looking for an alternative solution “rather than burning and burying,” said Jacqueline Ignacio, global manager of customer sustainability at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (known as MilliporeSigma in North America).
“Biopharmaceutical manufacturing is a growing market and the adoption of single-use technologies – including bags, tubing and filters and all things that make bioprocessing quicker, easier, cleaner and safer – is on the rise,” she told delegates at Interphex last week.
While an advocate of single-use technologies, which “serve to decrease water and energy usage,” Ignacio said that by 2025 there will be around 112,000 tonnes of single-use technology waste produced per year.
Individual company waste is increasing from around ten to 20 tonnes per year, to between 80 and 120 tonnes of plastic per year – accounting for nearly 50-60% of a site’s total solid waste, she added.
Unfortunately for the biopharmaceutical industry, the solution for single-use waste is not as simple as plastic bottle recycling, said Ignacio.
The plastics used are often a combination of different materials, such as silicon, polyethylene, and polypropylene, which once mixed in together, are difficult to segregate and separate, she added.
As a result, waste management firm Triumvirate must grind, shred and separate the plastic – and sterilise if it has been in contact with biohazardous waste – before blending it into a homogenous mix and moulding it into plastic lumber, speed bumps, parking bollards and palettes.
Selling these products in order to make the project financially viable is also a major hurdle, said Ignacio: “There is an economic issue around recycling that needs to be addressed.”
MilliporeSigma said it is open to recycling any brand of single-use technology.
“We can’t ask customers to pick MilliporeSigma products only. We are committed to figuring out a solution for our customers, no matter whose products they are using,” Ignacio told delegates.
The vendor hopes to work with more companies on America’s East Coast, before expanding to the West Coast.