Transforming medical waste into plastic lumber

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.

Not the first time this has been tried, including at least one trial in the UK, but the plastics composition have proven difficult to separate cleanly after even rather coarse shredding. There is still a high proportion of PVC that makes re-use difficult, and removing fragments of nitrile, vinyl and rubber gloves is a really difficult process. Moreover, unless syringe waste can be diverted from incineration and recovered, minus the metal fragment of sharps, then the net amount of recoverable plastic is still small.

Other, perhaps less, realistic concerns have been the possibility of drug residues in the plastic frame of park benches manufactures from these recovered plastics.

Even worse, the possibility of DNA residues from bloodstained hospital waste surviving the initial sterilisation process, then the plastics recovery and melt process, to be formed into a park bench.  Hardly a problem, though the question that was put to me to investigate was, could that DNA link an innocent hospital patient to a violent attack if a piece of that park bench was broken off and used in a criminal assault?

And my answer – no risk whatsoever.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.