Halyard Health recognized for eco-friendly approach
By Matthew N. Skoufalos
Rules governing the handling of manufacturing waste and the byproducts of industry differ so greatly from country to country that for any business looking to operate internationally, aligning its procedures is a vast undertaking.
“Globally, regulation is so different,” said Jane Hart, Global Sustainability Leader for Halyard Health, formerly Kimberly-Clark Health Care; “everything from waste to how you handle the chemicals that go into it.
“The landscape is so vast across the world, but our products are everywhere,” she said. “We’re not usually manufacturing for one place. We’re manufacturing for all places if we can.”
For the second year in a row, however, Halyard Health, has been recognized by the Practice Greenhealth organization for its waste management and sustainability practices. Practice Greenhealth is a nonprofit organization that works to drive systemic environmental change by bringing healthcare companies to focus on green issues.
“We’ve had goals for years, and we’re just now reaching our 2015 milestone point,” Hart said. “We’ve been doing a sustainability report for quite some time, and we’ve been part of the GRI ratings system for some time.
“We’ve lived it,” Hart said. “We know that you start small and you get big.”
The company is “99.91 percent landfill-free in our manufacturing process,” Hart said, and “aiming for 100 percent.” That mentality is what inspired the Blue Renew program, which helps hospitals recycle their sterilization wrap through local plastics processors. About 143 hospitals actively participate in the program, and another 257 hospitals are “engaged and pending start-up,” Hart said.
“We can help it get to another useful source,” she said. “Regulations won’t let that [wrap] get back into a Class I medical device, but there are plenty of other uses for it. We help train hospitals so they have the discipline to separate that [and] remove it from the OR before it gets in the room.”
Manufacturing waste has been a metric Halyard Health has tracked for quite some time.
“We measure our energy, our water,” Hart said. “We were paying to make sure we avoided landfills before people were really tracking the waste as close as we want it. We’re thinking about the footprint of it.”
The level of impact that a huge, multinational corporation can have simply by looking for ways to drive internal efficiencies is staggering, Hart said. Kimberly-Clark’s annual scrap sales total $60 million, of which $5 million was attributed to Health Care manufacturing waste scrap sales, now Halyard’s. That’s enough money to call it an entirely separate business, she said, “but we have a group of people who look at secondary materials usage, and that’s their job, and they’re phenomenal at it.”
In some cases, the waste team has helped to create new industries that didn’t exist before, Hart said. Even within the Blue Renew program, the leftovers from the manufacture of medical equipment aren’t necessarily going to recyclers, she said — they go to manufacturers.
“Whether it’s car parts, motorcycle parts, plastic bins, people are realizing that they can take the raw material that we have and turn it into what they need in the same way that pre-consumer waste gets remanufactured in a mill,” Hart said.
“Just by virtue of the fact that we’re doing that program, people are coming out of the woodwork,” she said. “[Right now we’re] working with a textile company to see if we can mix cotton with polypropylene to make scrubs. I get excited because I know that there’s a value for business, a value for society, and a value for the environment.”
Another aspect of the Halyard Health environmental push involves its work with the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC). The company created an educational initiative called the HospiCycle toolbox that helps maximize hospital recycling efforts from the ground up. The toolbox takes a step-by-step approach to guide facilities and staff from initial planning to effective roll-out of such a system, with instructions for everyone from decision-makers to nurses and professional staff members.
“The HPRC team works with several hospitals to develop case studies of recycling measurements and opportunities,” Hart said. “We work together for new ways to help explore these studies as to how to most effectively recycle, reuse, or even send materials or goods to a group like MedShare.
“We learn from our customers and we want to teach them what we know as well so we can be better together,” she said. “It’s a big puzzle; it’s not just one thing.”
MedShare International, a key charity for both Halyard Health and Kimberly-Clark, received a $1.7M donation from the Kimberly-Clark Foundation, and continues to receive monthly product donations from Halyard Health to support their ongoing efforts to areas in need.
“We have to be careful because it could get confiscated and sold on the black market, and we don’t want that,” Hart said. “We ensure that it gets there just as much as everybody else.”
The donations achieve two objectives. First, they help provide the means to treat sick patients in needy countries. Second, they find viable recipients for goods that Halyard Health would otherwise not necessarily be able to retail in the United States.
“If the outer case is damaged, but not the goods inside, we can provide them to people,” Hart said. “It was a way to continue to get rid of waste from a landfill and put it to better use. They’re not just randomly shipped, they’re ordered by people around the world. It’s these hospitals on the cusp of being able to take care of their own. Sometimes they order a shipment and sometimes one is sent.”
Next up on the horizon for Halyard Health is finding ways to conserve energy throughout its operations, Hart said. The healthcare division is running on 78 percent renewable energy, she said, but greater conservation will come not from improving the system itself alone, but how people interact with it to create efficiencies.
“We’re reporting to people who are investing in us, so all of those things become important factors in making decisions,” she said. “Supporting efficiency is much better than supporting inefficiency.”