Cardboard free logistics: Doing it greener
Our core business is making the healthcare sector more sustainable through the reprocessing of single-use medical devices. To do this, we need to transport used devices to our plant, and then back to hospitals once they have been reprocessed.
Moving reprocessed devices around the country every day ensures thousands of devices are being used to their full potential - as opposed to becoming landfill waste after just one use - and we didn’t see any reason why our shipping process couldn’t reduce waste or carbon emissions too.
From the first few devices sent back to hospitals, we realised that shipping medical devices in cardboard boxes has some real downsides:
Cardboard is weak compared to heavy trolleys that often bump into boxes in hospital corridors and storerooms - and this isn't great for the medical devices inside.
Cardboard boxes are only suitable for one use - they can’t be used to collect used products as well as send them.
We needed a way to safely and simply send used devices back to Medsalv for reprocessing, from hospitals all around New Zealand.
We also looked at the waste component, for a recyclable product there are some interesting statistics on how much is actually recycled - and where.
We recycle less than half of the fibre waste we create onshore, and the process is not exactly ‘green':
While paper and cardboard are produced from trees, a renewable resource, the production processes involved are extremely energy-intensive - producing paper bags in comparison to plastic bags reportedly consumes four times the energy that producing an equivalent plastic bag does.
Paper milling and pulping is water-intensive - pulp and paper producers are the single biggest industrial consumer of water in the developed world.
60+% of our fibre waste is either stockpiled or exported to Southeast Asia (where it may still be rejected due to contamination) after China closed its doors to the rest of the world's recycling.
Is your cardboard waste recycled in NZ?
Is it recycled at all?
While cardboard in a landfill doesn't pose a significant direct threat to the natural environment if it makes its way into waterways or the ocean, it does contribute to methane gas emissions and it leaks leachate into the groundwater system.
As with every decision we make, we looked for more sustainable option than the status quo, bucking the cardboard trend. While the upfront cost of a re-usable plastic carton is over 10 times that of an equivalent cardboard box, we took a long term view and have already seen the results.
Over the lifetime of our carton fleet, we expect to do away with close to 25,000 cardboard boxes.
In the event that they become damaged by normal use (which is far less likely than for cardboard boxes), they can be recycled into more cartons using less energy than carboard would.
One other advantage of these cartons is how easy they make our collection system for your hospital.
Get in touch to find out how we can work with your hospital to reduce your environmental impact and deliver better value to your patients.