By Pamela J. Willits
In an effort to reduce waste, the Cleveland Clinic’s Green Team established a recycling program in its operating rooms to separate recyclable plastics from non-recyclable items.
As the Clinic and University Hospitals alike began gearing up their recycling initiatives, Tom Lewins, executive director of New Avenues to Independence, realized that Buckeye Industries was the missing link in the recycle chain.
Being the only company in Northeast Ohio to offer medical recycling, Buckeye Industries has created a new market for hospital plastic waste and, as a byproduct of sorts, an environmentally beneficial circle of sustainability. In selling the plastics to end-users, Buckeye Industries is able to reinvest the money back into its recycling program, providing more job opportunities for those in need.
With one of the Cleveland Clinic hospitals already enrolled in the program, Buckeye Industries, along with Rumpke Waste and Recycling Services, will provide recycling services for the remaining Clinic hospitals by the end of the year. University Hospitals began its rollout schedule this month and expects to have all its hospitals online by October.
Buckeye Industries is also collaborating with MetroHealth, in conjunction with Stericycle Waste Management, to implement a medical recycling program yet this year.
“As healthcare continues to expand, in part due to our aging population, medical recycling will continue to be a growth market,” Lewins says. “As a business model, it is sustainable and helps area businesses protect the environment.”
With tipping fees at area landfills costing $700 per truck load, the savings can stack up for medical facilities while reducing the waste stream.
Employees sort presurgical clinical plastics, including pre-incision containers, trays, saline bottles, packaging, blue wrap, and Tyvek, a synthetic material. All materials are baled, bundled, and sold to Rumpke and Stericycle. They in turn sell the plastics to end-users, who regrind the material for use in new products, such as blended cotton and polyester clothing.
In October Buckeye Industries opened its Cleveland West facility to accommodate the increase in materials. To date it has processed more than 24,000 pounds of medical waste.
Currently, the company employs two non-disabled personnel, as well as 14 employees with some level of disability, with plans to double their size to 35 employees next year.
“The disabled have always been an underemployed sector of our workforce. Our recycling program is a good way to create meaningful jobs that pay a prevailing wage,” Lewins says.
Buckeye Industries also offers document destruction and Styrofoam and cardboard recycling at its four locations. Main service areas include Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties. Future plans include expansion into Summit County.
Presented by the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Division of the Ohio Department of Development, Buckeye Industries was awarded the 2011 Social Entrepreneur Award for its community and economic contributions, including the creation of jobs for socially and economically disadvantaged Ohioans.
Buckeye Industries also received the 2012 Organization of the Year, from the Western Lake County Chamber of Commerce, for enhancing the quality of life for Western Lake County residents and businesses.
For more information: newavenues.net/industries/