St.Germain has enjoyed working with Mölnlycke for 15 years, and witnessing their effectiveness at going above and beyond regulatory compliance while maintaining their cutting edge R&D and manufacturing here in Maine. We are equally proud to have nominated them for the Maine Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and proud that they won for Sustainability.
Through this award program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) celebrates and spotlights those who develop innovative ways to shift a culture toward sustainability that result in measurable environmental and economic benefits.
Award winners are those who are solving environmental challenges through constructive and creative solutions that go beyond standard techniques or regulatory compliance requirements.
Mölnlycke has a long history of maintaining environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance. They also continue to make great strides in finding beneficial solutions in the reuse of process-generated waste and the reduction of hazardous waste.
At their Wiscasset facility, Mölnlycke manufactures medical hydrophilic polyurethane foam products including an innovative foam containing silver that is used to make life-saving antimicrobial dressings for burns and infected wounds. During the manufacturing process, hazardous waste scrap foam (containing silver) and hazardous waste wastewater (containing residual quantities of silver) are generated. The foam scraps have been recycled since 2009, when St.Germain helped Mölnlycke obtain a Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) abbreviated permit to send the waste to a reclamation facility rather than a hazardous waste disposal facility.
Building on the success of the foam scrap recycling initiative, Mölnlycke started researching alternatives for recycling the silver in their liquid waste.
The challenge in recycling liquid waste containing wastewater was two-fold.
- • First, finding a safe and practical method of removing the silver from the wastewater.
- • Second, finding the appropriate licensing mechanism that would allow the waste to be recycled.
Maine DEP’s rules allow hazardous wastes to be treated by the generator with a few different exemptions and some permitting options. But which way was best?
With the assistance of St.Germain, Evolve Technologies Corporation, Maine DEP and the Town of Wiscasset, and after careful consideration Mölnlycke initiated a practical solution in March 2018.
Mölnlycke engineered a process that precipitated the majority of silver out of the wastewater, sinking to the bottom of the tank. Then the wastewater from the top of the tank is directed through silver recovery units in order to filter the remaining residual amounts of silver from the wastewater. The treated wastewater from the silver recovery units is continuously monitored for silver content, and if within the approved limits is discharged to the municipal sewer in accordance with a pretreatment license from the Town of Wiscasset.
The silver-containing sludge removed from the bottom of the tank, and the used recovery unit cartridges are sent to recycling facilities that reclaim the silver for reuse as a precious metal.
While Mölnlycke was in regulatory compliance when they managed their silver liquid waste as a hazardous waste, the silver was being wasted and the burden of compliance was heavy.
With the new system, the impact has been incredible:
- • Silver is reused as a raw precious metal instead of treated as a hazardous waste.
- • Silver is contained and does not leach out so there is minimal exposure to workers.
- • There is no longer a need to ship numerous 55-gallon drums of wastewater offsite as a hazardous waste. The wastewater—now that it no longer contains silver—can be safely treated onsite.
- • Employees no longer have to move and manage hundreds of drums of wastewater. This saves time and reduces the risks of injuries or spills.
- • By working with Maine DEP on certain regulatory exemptions, Mölnlycke was able to have a hazardous waste treatment unit designed and operated without needing to obtain a hazardous waste treatment license.
- • Depending upon market conditions, Mölnlycke is compensated by the reclamation facilities for the current value of the reclaimed silver.
- • This system involves the minimal handling of waste and a fairly low burden of paperwork and testing.
Mölnlycke has reduced hazardous waste by approximately 5,200 gallons just from the silver wastewater project alone from March to September 2018. Going forward it’s projected that 11,300 gallons will be reduced yearly if production stays at the same rate.
Mölnlycke has saved approximately $25,000 from the project inception in March 2018 through August 2018. This is an annualized savings amount of $55,000. This savings is being used to invest in further capacity and efficiency improvements making the Wiscasset site more competitive for future expansion.
This cost savings is a direct result in hazardous waste disposal, transportation and labor costs because hundreds of 55-gallon drums of wastewater no longer need to be moved offsite.
The best part of all of this?
This project could be replicated at other manufacturing facilities where precious metals may be reclaimed instead of being shipped offsite and ending up in landfills.