I have been working to bring the Biopharma and waste management industries together to recycle single use plastics using a unique process. The lessons are tremendous and have taught me a lot about recycling that I never knew before. Please feel fr...
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The biopharma industry utilizes single-use plastics in a growing number of areas— and for many good reasons, such as reductions in footprint, risk of contamination, time (i.e., processing, set-up and break down, batch-to-batch changeovers) and overall costs due to more efficient facilities and lower water consumption. These plastics include single-use bags, tubing, connectors, cartridge and capsule filters, clarification and depth filters, and chemical containers.
However, single-use plastics come with a downside: An estimated 30,000 tons of biopharma single-use products end up in landfills or are incinerated every year globally. At this rate, we project there will be over 300,000 tons of this waste generated by 2030. Due to biohazards, chemical contamination and the presence of mixed plastics—which are hard to separate in the current recycling infrastructure—this waste can’t just be dumped in a blue recycling bin and placed on the curb like any other plastic item.
I’m Jacqueline Ignacio, global manager of customer sustainability solutions at MilliporeSigma. I’m helping to tackle this issue through our company’s Biopharma Recycling Program, which allows our customers to recycle single-use plastic products. We work alongside the waste management company Triumvirate Environmental to transform these recycled plastics into new products, such as parking stops, plastic lumber and speed bumps.
My work on this program has made me view plastic recycling in a new way. This waste stream is not the first one a recycling company is going to pursue—it’s dirty, mixed plastics and low volume compared to other plastic waste streams. If others can start to think differently—or in a more circular fashion—we could see some impactful changes to the way we recycle today.
I really enjoy being able to bring the two very different industries of life science and waste management/recycling together to create a new solution. It’s challenging, but rewarding every day. The Biopharma Recycling Program requires me to have a “pushing the edge of the envelope” way-of-thinking. While it certainly benefits the environment and meets customers’ environmental goals, it’s also getting others to think outside the proverbial blue bin. If we can do this with the biopharma waste stream, can we start to imagine other items as something else rather than waste?
I’m happy to answer any questions about how we’re renewing the value of single-use plastic products previously viewed as waste.
A little about myself:
My career first began in the research lab before I transitioned into sales and product development within the life science industry. From there, I took a detour and became a massage therapist and part-time doula. While this part of my life was fulfilling and allowed me to make a difference, I craved to do something bigger.
I came back into life science through sales, which helped me learn how to really listen to what customers need. In 2013, there was an open position at MilliporeSigma in Corporate Responsibility that called for someone to develop and manage product/customer recycling programs. I took a chance and applied—and since then, I’m working to learn everything possible about recycling.