The secret to a successful circular economy is collaboration – a joint effort where organizations brainstorm, exchange knowledge and expertise, and develop innovation together to address problems.
That precisely captures the relationship between Chemicals Business, SCG, and Thailand’s leading healthcare network Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS), which have joined hands to develop better medical equipment for patients and healthcare professionals. Bringing to the table its years of experience of design and selecting the right polymers for various projects, Chemicals Business has struck up a partnership with BDMS to recycle and transform plastic containers for medical use like hemodialysate gallons into interior decoration items like flower pots, using the principles of the circular economy.
Eyes on the Same Goal
In striving towards their sustainable development goals, both organizations have attached great significance to the principles of the circular economy; while SCG has SCG Circular Way, BDMS has introduced BDMS Earth Healthcare Policy. United in their core belief, both bring together their expertise to achieve the same goal, which is to operate an eco-friendly business and elevate the quality of life sustainably.
Making a remark on his organization’s environmental policy, Sermsak Khampitoon, Customer Experience Management Director, Bangkok Hospital, said that BDMS strives to continuously enhance the quality of life in communities and society and has thus introduced BDMS Earth Healthcare Policy, which consists of four core components: building an eco-mindset, designing a better environment, moving towards a green business, and sustaining social engagement.
Therefore, all BDMS personnel has to play their part in fostering positive reinforcement. Bangkok Hospital Headquarters has launched a project named “Be Green” to educate employees on 3Rs, which refer to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and ensure a uniform understanding. Once they apply 3Rs, they will be able to reduce and sort waste appropriately, which ultimately extends its useful life.
Thanks to BDMS’ clear policy, SCG, as a polymer specialist, has been invited to join it as a partner. Discussing the overall picture of the project, Supathida Ratanaswasd, Medical and Well-being Business Manager, Chemicals Business, SCG, said, “In this project, we have joined forces with BDMS, a partner who understands our working processes thoroughly. The success of this project was highly dependent on the collaboration and understanding of the work processes from BDMS. They understood very well, the importance of proper waste sorting and collecting and cooperated with us in providing materials for this project. This excellent management made it possible for us to process it into new products. It can be said that we are on the same wavelength and share the same vision, which is why our collaboration has been a success.”
Putting Policies to Practice
The project consisted of two main components: waste management and product design, with SCG guiding BDMS through the former, starting with the analysis of all waste types generated in the hospital and the selection of non-infectious waste that lent itself to recycling. In this process, hemodialysate gallons were marked out as interesting candidates not only because they were clean, non-infectious, and good quality waste but also because they were made of HDPE – a material that SCG is an expert on. BDMS operates a hemodialysis center, and waste such as hemodialysate gallons are generated every day in large quantities, making it ideal for this project.
Once the material had been selected, the next vital step was to request the cooperation of BDMS staff to obtain these gallons in the best condition. To this end, BDMS begins the projects internally by educating staff in preparing waste to meet the right condition, making sure the waste that were being collected were free from contamination. The staff were instructed to record the daily number of the hemodialysate gallons collected (the hemodialysis center generated 150-200 gallons per day), and then remove the caps, foil caps, and labels that were made of other materials. Each gallon was then cleaned thoroughly inside and outside with detergents to remove any adhesive residue, rinsed with water, dried, and put away in a clean and dry storage room, waiting to be delivered to SCG.
An important part of the project was product design. Both organizations came together to brainstorm for ideas of products that not only was functional, and practical, but had to be aesthetically pleasing as well. The goal was to turn waste into something remarkable through the upcycling of waste, adding value to waste that would’ve otherwise been thrown away. The whole process of design and development of the product was done under the best of standards, ensuring the measures were taken to create the best product possible under. As the law dictated that food contact products could not be made with recycled materials and as the hospital was looking to add more green spaces inside its new building, they decided to develop 80-100 cm.-tall plant pot. As they could be placed at customer touchpoints, these flower pots could demonstrate in a concrete way that materials that were perceived as waste could be made useful again.
“One of the challenges was to create awareness among consumers that these products, which are made from recycled plastics, were not inferior to those made from virgin resins in terms of quality and aesthetic. Therefore, we developed a new formulation that were composed of recycled plastic and carefully controlled the molding, so that the final product dovetailed with the image of BDMS as a premium healthcare provider,” said Supathida.
Through the sharing of experience and expertise in this collaborative effort, the two organizations have been able to identify not only what resources were available, but also what they can be transformed into in order to make the best use of them.
The Next Step of the Project
Following the successful development of the flower pot from recycled hemodialysate gallons, which helps increase green spaces and add liveliness to the hospital, the next product that is being invented is a smaller planting pot for devil’s ivy, which is known to help reduce pollution inside buildings. The planting pot has been developed to have a beautiful design and special functions that offer convenience. Also under development are garbage cans where the designs help users sort waste correctly and more easily.
“The recycled plastic planting pot might be a small development that marks the first phase of our project, but we are trying to show that there are platforms through which we can effectively foster public awareness of waste separation,” stated Sermsak. “We are fortunate to have embarked on this project with SCG, who is a leader when it comes to putting the principles of the circular economy to practice. Right from the start, we worked on every part of the process together and systematically tracked the progress. This is what we have learned from SCG and was key to the success of the project.”
Supathida believed that the cooperation of everyone was indispensable for making a circular economy a reality and concluded, “We are generating endless amounts of waste. The challenge is therefore how to identify its value. This is not something that anyone can do alone; it will take the cooperation and expertise of organizations that shared the same goal of tackling this environmental problem. It all begins with each of us doing our part.”
Similarly, Sermsak asserted that having a shared goal was the key to success. “We are not alone in our effort to apply the principles of the circular economy to our organization because we have a partner who is a leader in innovation and share the same mindset and goal with us, which have allowed us both to exchange knowledge and contribute to a better environment. As an employee of BDMS, I believe that every change starts with a change of mindset, the use of reasons, and information, all of which will trigger behavioral change. BDMS is ready to create an environment conducive to the fostering of eco-consciousness to lead the organization towards a sustainable change in accordance with its “Growth, Balance, and Sustainability” concept.”