Our Scottsville Manufacturing Operations (SVMO) team is continuously evaluating opportunities and approaches to recycling to help preserve the environment. At the facility, most recyclables have nominal value and it is challenging to find someone who can use or sell some of the waste materials. There is also very limited space for accumulation, storage and sorting. To evaluate recycling options, waste samples have been provided to potential recyclers, but the recyclers’ requirements for purity and volume have led them to reject the materials. The team has in place a recycling path for paper, cardboard, plastic molds and sprue (a piece of plastic that solidifies in the channels that fill the molds used to create contact lenses). However, a market for many other plastics generated in production, the cafeteria or in offices could not be found. In the past, these other recyclable materials were disposed in the landfill.
Recently, the SVMO team’s persistence paid off as the site’s waste disposal contractor had identified the single-stream option. A single-stream facility accepts co-mingled recyclable materials and sorts them into different classes of recyclable materials. The facility is large enough to collect and combine the waste materials from many other companies as well as homes to create consistent, pure and large volumes of recyclable materials. The single-stream facility then sells these materials directly to end users, eliminating the need for SVMO to find a market for them.
Sending waste to a single-stream sorting facility has several advantages, the primary being the ability to commingle the different waste streams. By commingling these and other materials into a “single stream,” CooperVision’s waste contractor hauls them away all at once to the sorting facility versus being sorted on site. This reduces the space and effort required to store, sort and segregate the materials into large boxes. Lifting materials into these large boxes also created a potential ergonomic safety issue.
One recyclable waste stream previously uncaptured was the plastic cups with lids used for hydrating contact lenses. Recycling options had been researched, but unfortunately there were no local recyclers that would take the large volume of lightweight plastic. EHS Associate Myles Ott reported, “There wasn’t a cost-effective solution. To recycle the cups and lids would require a large collection area and a dedicated person to spend excessive time preparing the items for shipment across the country, which detracts from the benefit of recycling by consuming natural resources throughout the transportation of the materials.” Using the single-stream sorting facility allows SVMO to capture and recycle these cups and lids, tremendously reducing the volume of materials sent to the landfill.
Commingling waste is a more effective and efficient approach for SVMO. Instead of the typical sort, stage and ship, the SVMO team simply bags the materials and places them into the compactor. They arrive at the sorting facility and are separated into many different recyclable material streams.
The SVMO team is committed to continually reviewing the single-stream recycling program and improving its recycling rate. The team is also collecting and recycling the fiber in paper towels, glass, tin and other materials. Consolidating the transportation of waste also has the potential to reduce the overall cost of waste management. In the long-term, recycling using the single-stream option increases the site’s recycling, reduces the space used, captures additional waste materials, saves money and reduces the overall impact on the environment.