Earth Day – an opportunity to think about the impact we are having on the planet

 

If you haven’t heard of Earth Day it is a global awareness day celebrated each year on April 22nd. According to estimates, over 1 billion people in 192 countries take part in a variety of events and activities held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. People march, sign petitions, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Organisations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures.

This is an important day for us because we are passionate about minimising the effects of waste on the environment and as well as working to do this every day it is an integral part of our plans for the future. We aim to create long-term practices that respect the environment and are continuously putting effort and investment into new and innovative technologies to address the challenge of sustainably managing healthcare waste.

Most of Stericycle’s received waste inputs (and process waste outputs) are either re-used, recovered or recycled. As a resource management company, we handle over 150,000 tonnes of a wide and diverse range of clinical waste each year. Here are some of the ways we reuse, reduce and recycle it:

 

Bio Systems

 

Our Bio Systems sharps management service provides healthcare organisations with reusable containers that are collected, emptied, washed, disinfected and returned. For each Bio Systems container used, up to 600 single-use containers are prevented from being incinerated. This is equivalent to running two small cars for a year (based on a typical 1200 bed NHS trust) and is instrumental in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

 

The incineration process

 

During clinical waste incineration ash, lime and steam are created. Each of these by-products can be reused or recycled:

  • Ash is collected by approved contractors for various other processes.
  • Waste lime is collected for reuse by third parties.
  • Steam produced by the process is either used to generate electricity or in local heating schemes.

Steam produced by Stericycle’s on-site waste-to-energy incinerator is also used to power the Bio Systems wash-line making it a self-contained, self-sufficient and sustainable service.

 

Alternative treatment process

 

Alternative treatment is the heating of waste to disinfect it, as an alternative to incineration.

As part of the alternative treatment process the disinfected waste is shredded into flock. Flock can be used as a fuel source and is sent to energy-from-waste plants or cement kilns. Since the beginning of 2014 99 per cent of the flock created from our clinical waste treatment plants has been used in this way.

However, we are not just dedicated to finding sustainable, environmentally friendly and compliant recovery options for all waste we handle, we have also looked at how we can improve our administrative procedures. In May 2018 we became a paperless organisation with the launch of our Stericycle e-consignment notes. This has reduced paper waste for us and our customers and contributes to our overall reduction in energy consumption.

Earth Day reminds us that environmental action is something everyone can and should take part in whether it is picking up litter you see on the street or being a company that uses sustainable waste disposal methods, we all can make a difference.