With sustainability firmly in the spotlight, businesses across all industries are endeavouring to make their processes greener. With the complex set of waste streams required, mitigating the environmental impact of healthcare waste disposal can be challenging, but not impossible. Northern Ireland-based company Robinson Services was looking at how it could become more environmentally friendly when it came across the alternative treatment process offering from Stericycle. Since 2015, the two companies have worked together to divert over 320 tonnes of hygiene waste from reaching landfill.
Reducing environmental impact is the right thing to do
Robinson Services provides cleaning, hygiene, laundry and other specialist services to a range of customers across the public and private sector, including office blocks, shopping centres, and Queen’s University in Belfast. Previously, hygiene waste generated from these properties was taken to the company’s central waste location, put into waste bins and taken to landfill. Landfill is considered to be the least environmentally friendly option, as the process of waste breaking down produces both carbon dioxide and methane.
The company had already taken steps to become more environmentally friendly, increasing its recycling and reducing transportation where possible, but it wanted to do more. Joe Hanna, Compliance and Risk Director at Robinson Services, heard from colleagues in the waste industry that landfill was not the only way to dispose of hygiene waste. He says: “I found out that there was actually a way to clean hygiene waste material and convert it to energy, which would divert it away from landfill.”
In September 2015, the company began using Stericycle’s alternative waste treatment services. Stericycle collects the waste from the central location on a weekly basis and transport it to the alternative treatment site in Antrim. Here, the waste is shredded, then moved through a Heat Disinfection Unit that uses hot oil. Once cooled, the waste is then compacted, ready to be sent for use as a solid recovered fuel (SRF) for energy-from-waste plants or cement kilns, which decreases reliance on fossil fuels.
Now, 100 per cent of the hygiene waste generated by Robinson Services’ customers is treated this way, diverting over 80 tonnes of waste per year from landfill – a huge step for the company on its sustainability journey.
Despite the increased cost associated with treating the waste this way, Joe says they decided it was the way to go. “As a company we’re trying to improve our green credentials and that means working to reduce our carbon footprint. It costs us more money to do it this way, but it’s definitely the right thing to do.”