Using Waste in Unique Ways
By Robert Currie
Director, Environment, Health & Safety
Baxter International Inc.
Since the establishment of its first waste reduction goals in 1996, Baxter Healthcare Corporation has made minimizing waste one of its top environmental priorities—sometimes by using waste in unique ways.
One of Baxter’s sustainability priorities and goals for 2015 is to reduce total waste generation 30%, indexed to revenue from 2005 baseline. Because Baxter sites generate different types of waste, the company’s total waste goal, which combines non-hazardous and regulated waste, encourages each site to focus on reduction efforts for waste streams most relevant to its own operations.
Baxter identifies its leading opportunitiesto decrease waste based on factors including the highest volume and cost waste streams across the company, facilities that produce the most waste, and sites with particularly strong improvement potential. Baxter has operations, including offices and manufacturing/distribution facilities, in 65 countries.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
One of Baxter’s more significant regulated waste streams, classified as a medical waste, is waste plasma. Plasma-based operations, including plasma processing facilities, generate blood-derived protein wastes that present few opportunities for source reduction or reuse. In 2011, Baxter's Environment, Health & Safety team at the company's site in Los Angeles collaborated with an external waste management company to develop a comprehensive waste management program to address this waste stream. The team’s efforts led to several new initiatives.
An electricity source: The plasma paste, which had been classified as biohazardous medical waste, autoclaved and then disposed of in a landfill, is now sent to the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, CA. The site uses a multiple-stage process to remove biosolids from the water and then “digest” or break down the remaining biological materials in Baxter’s plasma waste stream and other non-Baxter waste sources using microbes in an anaerobic digester. This process generates methane gas, which is used as a source to generate electricity that provides about 90% of the wastewater treatment plant's electricity needs (including the energy derived from non-Baxter waste sources). Surplus electricity not needed by the wastewater treatment facility is directed back to the local electrical utility grid.
Fertilizer: In addition to the plasma paste itself, related Baxter waste streams including waste albumin and 24% alcohol solution not sent to Baxter’s on-site alcohol recovery still, are processed in the digester and therefore no longer are considered waste but rather material for reuse. After centrifuges remove water from the remaining digested biosolids, the residual materials are recycled as fertilizer for use on non-food crop agricultural fields.
Reusable plastics: Plastic bottles and bags that hold the plasma paste, as well as other plastics that have contact with these materials, are drained, shredded or reground, and then recycled into reusable plastics, as opposed to previously being sent to a landfill.
In 2012, about 1000 metric tons of material from Baxter’s Los Angeles site that would have previously been disposed as medical waste was instead reused or recycled, producing useful materials and generating nearly 80,000 kW of electricity.
Baxter’s site in Alathur, India, produces intravenous (IV) solution products. For several years this location used Grade 6 heavy fuel oil for both of its on-site boilers to generate steam to support the manufacturing process. In 2011, the facility switched one of its two boilers to a “green boiler,” which uses a local biomass fuel—a renewable energy source—instead of fuel oil. The biomass fuel consists of coconut and rice husks as well as sugar cane remnants. During the first five months of use, the converted boiler produced about 16,400 gigajoules of energy, approximately 26% of the total energy used by the site during this period.
Also in India, in 2011 Baxter’s Waluj facility, which produces IV and Renal solutions products, contracted with a third party to own and operate a green boiler on Baxter’s property. The boiler, which began operating in February 2012, uses a locally available renewable energy source, composed of residual biomass material from the sugar cane and cotton industries. This system, which previously used fuel oil, will realize similar benefits to the green boiler at Baxter’s Alathur location. By using what was once someone else’s waste, the system is expected to provide 100% of the site’s steam energy needs while contributing to the local economy.
Non-hazardous waste reduction
Plastic scrap continues to be Baxter’s largest waste stream, generating roughly one-third of the company’s non-hazardous waste. Baxter’s Corporate Environmental Engineering group identified opportunities to reduce plastic waste generation at the source through a systematic approach that emphasizes continual improvement and draws on Lean and Six Sigma tools. The company is already beginning to see the success of these efforts.
- Australia - Baxter’s Toongabbie facility organized five teams to work on opportunities related to manufacturing: bag sealing, extrusion, packing, filling and bottles. The teams reduced plastic scrap per unit of production by 1% during 2011.
- Costa Rica - Baxter’s Cartago facility strengthened existing plastic scrap measurement systems in its manufacturing and finished product packing areas. Through these efforts, the facility achieved significant reductions in plastic scrap generation.
For more information on the company’s waste reduction efforts, check out Baxter’s latest Sustainability Report.