Jeannette company becomes leader in recycling biopharmaceutical waste
Triumvirate Environmental has a new way to help the pharmaceutical industry recycle plastic waste.
The Jeannette waste-management company serves clients in the life sciences, health care, education and industrial markets.
Biopharmaceutical waste — estimated to be about 30,000 tons per year and either incinerated or sent to landfills — is regulated because of the potentially biohazardous materials it comes into contact with.
Massachusetts-based MilliporeSigma is a supplier to the biopharma industry, creating multilayer plastic film bags used to grow cells and proteins and create pharmaceutical drugs, in addition to things such as shoe covers, tubing, chemical containers and filtration systems.
Through a pilot program, MilliporeSigma officials discovered that its customers “were asking for it and willing to engage in (recycling),” said Jacquie Ignacio, MilliporeSigma’s global manager for customer sustainability solutions and the person who oversees its recycling programs.
The problem on MilliporeSigma’s end was the high cost.
“This material was not going to be able to be separated and up-cycled,” Ignacio said. “And on the front end, you don’t want people touching it. We began looking for someone who was doing something different, and that’s how we found Triumvirate, who came to us and said they had this new process.”
That process involves shredding the materials Triumvirate receives at its 87,000-square-foot Jeannette plant from MilliporeSigma and other clients, and using it for more industrial, lower-grade uses.
“We knew early on that whatever we made wasn’t going to be close to the quality of the virgin plastic material that comes to us as waste product,” said Steve Todisco, corporate director for Triumvirate. “It’s not a commodity like the HDPE-type plastic (that comes from the recycling of things like milk jugs).”
Triumvirate has been able take what Ignacio said “is basically a valueless shred and turn it into a product.”
Todisco said Triumvirate has created molded plastic items for the steel industry and synthetic turf industry as well as plastic “lumber” products that can be used in infrastructure.
Pallets are also a big seller.
“Nowadays, logistic and shipment companies are shifting more toward plastic pallets, owing to its advantages such as lightweight and environmental friendly as compared to wooden pallets,” Fortune Business Insight officials wrote in their June 2019 report on the international pallet industry. “Moreover, the growing awareness to reduce the carbon footprint is also increasing the demand for plastic pallets.”
Triumvirate is taking advantage.
“There are companies who are now purchasing pallets, made from materials they’d previously sent to us,” Todisco said.
It’s a recycling loop that includes MilliporeSigma, as well.
“A lot of our customers have been requiring that they receive products on plastic pallets rather than wood,” Ignacio said. “So, in a weird way, we have figured out a way to up-cycle this material. Getting an industrial-grade use out of it, like a car bumper, is much better than the previous method of just incinerating it.”
Where Triumvirate began with the idea of sustainable solutions for its clients, “we’re now more of a one-stop shop for existing clients and collaborators like the MilliporeSigmas of the world,” Todisco said. “It’s such a unique story in the industry.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .