Somerville, MA-based Triumvirate Environmental is turning medical and pharmaceutical waste into plastic lumber called "BestPlus." According to Plastics News, the hazardous and medical waste management company acquired two companies in 2014: Medical Waste Recovery Inc. of Jeannette, PA and Northern Plastic Lumber Inc. of Lindsay, Ontario. Triumvirate moved equipment from Northern Plastic to the Jeannette facility, which sterilizes the waste, separates metals, and processes the remaining plastic and paper to make the finished plastic lumber.
While the stream contains mixed plastics, paper, and cardboard, most of the material is high-density polyethylene – about 70% to 80%, according to Triumvirate CEO John McQuillan.
The Jeannette site generated $600,000 per month in sales in less than two years, and Triumvirate does about $120 million in business a year overall, according to Plastics News. The company plans to add five similar facilities in the U.S.
The idea for this innovative product from medical waste originated from the demand from pharmaceutical and hospital customers with materials to dispose of.
"The pharmaceutical sector has an industrywide goal of zero landfill by the year 2020. They are looking to recycle whatever they can," said McQuillan of his clients, who recently faced new EPA-mandated hazardous waste disposal rules.
He saw a second, potentially lucrative opportunity in the volumes of materials he collects, as has a California companythat is doing something as innovative with the medical waste it collects.
"Medical stuff tends to be heavily packaged and the packaging is, for the most part, plastic. And for the most part, good plastic that can be used," said McQuillan.
But the company has one challenge in particular: the quality of some of the materials varies and since the plastic is combined with non-plastic materials, such as paper and cardboard, it would be hard to recycle for many processors.
"Most plastic recyclers don’t want to see a No. 2 plastic confounded with a No. 3 or 4 or 5, 6, 7, much less do they want to see it confounded with something that is non-plastic. Our process is a very forgiving process. We will sterilize, shred, compound and extrude not only the plastic, but anything that’s riding along with the plastic such as paper, wood or cardboard,” McQuillan said.